Jim Benson Exits SpaceDev to Start Space Tourism Company
SpaceDev rolled out their Dream Chaser space plane this week. Image
Credit: Jenifer Harrington

WASHINGTON -- SpaceDev founder Jim Benson has stepped down as chairman and chief technology officer of the Poway, Calif.-based company to launch a new commercial space tourism venture called Benson Space Company.

Benson, who said he intends to be "first-to-market" with a spaceship designed for suborbital and eventually orbital spaceflight, made his announcement Sept. 28, the same day Sir Richard Branson was set to unveil at the Wired NEXTFest Forum in New York a full-scale mockup of SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital vehicle Branson's Virgin Galactic expects to have in service by late 2008.

Benson said in a statement that his new company had completed a first round of financing, raising an undisclosed sum, and has requested a proposal from SpaceDev for delivery of multiple Dreamchaser suborbital spaceships. Benson said he expects Benson Space Company to be SpaceDev's biggest customer for the Dreamchaser, a hybrid-rocket-propelled spaceship still in development.

"My biggest challenges over the next few months will be evaluating SpaceDev's response to our proposal request, negotiating the contract for the development of our first spaceships, and completing second-round financing for this new venture," Benson said in the statement.