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All Hat, No Cattle April 30, 2006

Posted by shubber in Uncategorized.

I’ve decided to do this as a new posting, but would like to give credit where it is due for the starting thought – the previous posting which looked at why/how a company morphs into TransConX (insert name here) from a championed space startup…

First off: Hi back at you, Monty!

Now, to the matter at hand – what makes a company a “white hat” vs. a “black hat” in the minds of the alt.space community?

I don’t pretend to speak for anyone other than myself, but i will make a few observations on the matter, which you may agree or disagree with.

White hat companies seem to fall into two categories in the alt.space community: true seed-stage startups funded by believers in their particular cause (space solar power, RLV, space elevators, etc), and “startups” being driven by well-heeled investors that are tackling a specific segment of the market (SpaceX, Virgin Galactic/Scaled Composites, Bigelow, etc).

Black hat companies, also referred to at various times as the Military/Industrial Complex, Big Aerospace, or just Satan, are large established aerospace companies (Boeing, LockMart, NG, etc) which are considered behemoths, ossified, in the way, and generally the primary reason why the White Hats aren’t successful – that if they would simply get out of the way, not take all of the government funding, etc., the White Hats would prove and develop a robust private sector commercial space economy for the masses.

Interesting concept.

Apparently, you can go from being a White Hat to a Black Hat in a not-very-easy-to-understand process, as Orbital Sciences has done. I’ve yet to hear of a Black Hat becoming a White Hat, though. Anyone?

And yet, i have to wonder: it seems as if the underlying prerequisite for becoming a “black hat” is that you are either (a) large, established, and not living off credit cards in your mom’s basement, or (b) not backed by a rock-star dot Com bazzilllionaire, or (c) surviving primarily on government largesse (read: contracts).

So here’s the question for those following along: how many of the White Hats are either currently the recipient of government funding or loan guarantees of some sort? How many White Hats (and WHSs – white hat supporters) are lobbying for more government money to flow in the direction of the alt.spacers?



1. TomsRants - April 30, 2006

I think there is a word that describes precisely what you are talking about, particularly as it relates to the attitude of the White Hat Supporters:




2. oldspacecadet - April 30, 2006

A White Hat can become a Black Hat by failing. Example — Rotary Rocket. The fragments of such a failure then automatically become White hats.

Is this a type of quantum state reversal following some arcane conservation rule or do the fragments assume a state of White Hattiness because they try again without bazzillionaire backing? How does failing create credibility and White Hattiness for the next attempt?

3. Paul Dietz - May 1, 2006

White hats could stay white hats if they actually found a significant sustainable market other than Uncle Sugar. I truly wish them luck at that, but am not investing any of my own money.

4. Monte Davis - May 1, 2006

Think about the mental contortions practiced in politics: the ideological left castigates mere liberals as sell-outs; the ideological right tells us that, e.g., Nixon and Bush I weren’t real conservatives.

Think about KSRobinson’s remarks a few years ago on the narcissism of small differences among spacers.


I’ve seen shouting (and posting) matches that reminded me of nothing so much as campus arguments c. 1970 between the People’s Trotskyite Workers’ Alliance and the Reformed Militant Guevaristas. Orwell tells us that Spain 1936 was much the same, only with more guns.

Finally, of course, think of the proto-Palestinian schismatics in Life of Brian.

All I know for sure is: come the revolution, everybody’s going to think like me.

5. TomsRants - May 1, 2006

So…Monty…were you with the Judean People’s Front, or the People’s Front of Judea??

6. Monte Davis - May 1, 2006


I was founding member of the Remorselessly Militant Monte-with-an-E Alliance.

And you and Shubber don’t get in until you take the pledgy.

7. TomsRants - May 1, 2006

Monty – I’ll take that pledge….LOL…at ISDC.


8. Shubber Ali - May 2, 2006

And you and Shubber don’t get in until you take the pledgy.

Not until you learn to conjugate the phrase Romans Go Home in Latin.

9. Mark - May 2, 2006

Very droll.

Incidently, my own definition is that a “White Hat” company is one that is either (a) successful or (b) has a fair prospect of being successful. A “Black Hat” tends to spend less time growing a business and more posting on the internet boasts about how they’re going to beat NASA to the Moon.

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