Rex Ridenoure


Rex Ridenoure, Independent Consultant with 45-year space career

For the first couple decades of his space career Rex was primarily a space-mission engineer and space-mission architect, working on more than a dozen missions, including Viking/Mars (as a student intern at JPL); some of the earliest communications satellites deployed from the Space Shuttle (at Hughes Space & Communications); the Hubble Space Telescope (at Lockheed); Voyager/Neptune, Lunar Observer pre-project and Deep Space One (at JPL); and several small-satellite and secondary payload efforts. About midway during this period (1985-1986) he tested the waters in the emerging small satellite startup arena, but this was abruptly cut short by the Shuttle Challenger disaster.

Since 1997 he has been a ‘NewSpace’ entrepreneur and a champion of expanding commercial space activities beyond the established commercial markets. From 1997 to 2000 as a senior manager and space-mission architect at Microcosm, SpaceDev and BlastOff Corporation he actively promoted the broad prospects for small satellites, and in particular the emerging market for commercial cislunar and deep-space missions. In 2001 he co-founded space avionics and sensor systems firm Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation and was CEO for 17+ years.

Ecliptic significantly expanded the use of video systems on rockets and spacecraft—its RocketCam™ product family—and today is known globally for providing iconic onboard views from over 180 space missions, many of them pioneering and historic. Ecliptic also produces space avionics for the control and data handling of science payloads and space-based experiments, develops selected spacecraft subsystems and performs integration and testing of CubeSats and small spacecraft. In summer 2023 Ecliptic was acquired by the Spanish firm Arquimea.

Since 2021 Rex has been an independent consultant, dedicating most of his time as a commercial space Subject Matter Expert supporting the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU, Mountain View, California), while also serving occasionally as an independent technical, cost and management reviewer of space-mission and technology-development proposals submitted to NASA.

Rex earned his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering (with honors) at Iowa State University (Ames), where he was also a 4-year NCAA gymnast.  He also has a M.S. in Aeronautics from Caltech. 

Throughout his career, Rex has been fortunate to have participated in and contributed to a variety of pioneering space projects and space firsts, and to several space trends still in the news today (with dates of his participation shown):

1976:  First successful Mars landings (Viking)

1978:  First commercial satellites deployed from Space Shuttle (deployed on STS-5, 1982)

1980-1982:  Commercial Payload Specialist/commercial crew development (Hubble Space Telescope at Lockheed)

1982-1985:  First ‘Shuttle-optimized’ spacecraft program (LEASAT; 5 satellites, including a successful in-space salvage mission)

1985-present: Modular architectures for space platform assembly (Oliver Harwood concepts)

1986:  Shuttle Get Away Special experiments (Utah State University)

1986:  Early commercial small satellites (GlobeSat, Inc.)

1986-1990:  First encounter with Neptune (Voyager 2); Voyager Interstellar Mission planning (both)

1987-1992:  Low-cost student-designed secondary payloads (SURFSat, launched 1992)

1990:  First detailed mission plan for a Mercury orbiter (inspired MESSENGER mission)

1990-1991:  Planning for lunar mapping in advance of human return (Lunar Observer)

1992-1994:  Early smallsat and microsat studies for deep-space exploration (at JPL)

1994-1995:  Formulation of NASA tech-demo spacecraft series (New Millennium Program)

1995-1997:  First mission to use ion propulsion as primary propulsion system (Deep Space 1)

1998:  First – and still only! – successful commercial mission to Moon (AsiaSat-3 salvage/HGS-1)

1998-1999:  Early commercial asteroid, lunar and Mars mission concepts (SpaceDev, Inc.)

2000:  Mature commercial lunar lander/rover mission development (BlastOff! Corporation)

2001-2020:  Expanded use of onboard video from rockets and spacecraft (Ecliptic RocketCam™)

  • Delta, Atlas, Shuttle, SpaceShipOne, LCROSS, Cygnus, GEO comsats, ISS, LightSail, SSO-A, etc.

2008:  Google Lunar XPRIZE team (Southern California Selene Group; spinning lander architecture)

2015-2020:  Advanced sensor development (Remote Acoustic Sensor)

2021-present: Infusion of commercial space solutions into the DoD (DIU Space Portfolio)

Broadcast 2513 (Special Edition)

Guest: Rex Ridenoure; Topics: Ecliptic Enterprise overview & updates, LightSail program & mission, NewSpace & more. Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use.

Broadcast 2330 (Special Edition)

Guest: Rex Ridenoure. Topics: Ecliptic Enterprises updates, commercial space, commercial space and the future. Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use.

Broadcast 1786 (Special Edition)

Guest: Rex Ridenoure. Topics: Ecliptic Enterprises update, commercial space & investor convergence, IZUP LLC. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright.

Broadcast 1474 (Special Edition)

Guest: Rex Ridenoure. Topics: Mars, Space policy, NASA, RocketCam, commercial space. Please note that you are invited to comment, ask questions, and rate this program on the new Space Show blog, Also visit the Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation website at In our first segment, Rex Ridenoure introduced us to RocketCam and identified the launches and companies that are using it.

Broadcast 944 (Special Edition)

Guests: Responsive Space Conference #6 interviews include Roland Coelho, Alex Chin, Rex Ridenoure, Tina Le, Alex Baklashov, Amitsur Rosenfeld. All are part of this recorded series of interviews from the 6th Responsive Space Conference held at the Westin Hotel in Los Angeles, CA from April 28-May 1, 2008. This series of interviews focused on the students who were present at the conference. Two different sets of students were interviewed, the first were involved in building small satellites at Cal Poly in San Louis Obispo, CA.

Broadcast 794 (Special Edition)

This is the second and final AIAA Space 2007 program and it features Stephen Metschan, CEO of TeamVision and Rex Ridenoure of Ecliptic Enterprises. Stephen was at AIAA promoting and presenting papers re the Direct 2 program which we have discussed on The Space Show. In this segment, he gives his impressions of what is happening at Space 2007 re Direct 2 and the NASA program, plus he compares and contrasts talks given by Dr. Scott Horowitz and Dr. Michael Griffin here at the conference.

Broadcast 493 (Special Edition)

Rex Ridenoure, CEO of Ecliptic Enterprises Corporation of Pasadena, CA, joined The Space Show for this program. As Rex pointed out, Ecliptic is a very successful company, thus significantly broadening our usual application of the term We began our discussion talking about their RocketCam product which took the incredible Space Ship One and Shuttle real time photos. This discussion expanded how Rex leads Ecliptic in the global space economy, how they are impacted by ITAR, cost plus contracting versus FFP. We talked about business secrecy, public and private companies.

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