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)