Flying a capsule to the International Space Station was apparently just the beginning. The California company SpaceX is also refashioning its Dragon spacecraft to ferry astronauts, and planning to launch a huge new 23-story rocket from an Air Force base near Santa Barbara. Executives say they're even working on a space-age Holy Grail: the world's first reusable rocket, which would fly back to Earth completely intact, the Los Angeles Times reports.
But analysts question whether the company's lean, Silicon-Valley mindset will help it prosper (fewer layers of bureaucracy) or foreshadow its demise (fewer lobbyists to guarantee contracts in Washington). With $4 billion in contracts to launch private satellites, however, SpaceX has a few bucks to throw at Congress. "If SpaceX just launched telecommunications satellites, there isn't much that separates them from any other launch provider," says one analyst. "It's the company's aspirations to more difficult tasks that make them exciting." (Read more SpaceX stories.)