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  • Published: 16 May 2023
  • ISBN: 9780753557778
  • Imprint: WH Allen
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $40.00

When The Heavens Went On Sale

The Misfits and Geniuses Racing to Put Space Within Reach

A momentous look at the private companies driving the revolutionary new space race, from the 3-million copy, New York Times bestselling author of Elon Musk

*An instant New York Times Bestseller*

'One of the most exciting tales of our time... It's the next tech frontier, and Vance turns it into a thriller' Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs

'Eloquent, expertly reported' Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store

A momentous look at the private companies driving the revolutionary new space race, from the 3-million copy, New York Times bestselling author of Elon Musk

In 2008, Elon Musk's SpaceX became the first private company to build a low-cost rocket that could reach orbit. Suddenly Silicon Valley, not NASA, was the epicentre of the new Space Age.

Ashlee Vance follows four pioneering companies - Astra, Firefly, Planet Labs and Rocket Lab - as they race to control access to outer space. While the space tourism ambitions of billionaires such as Bezos and Branson make headlines, these under-the-radar companies are striving to monetise Earth's lower orbit; to connect, analyse and monitor everything on Earth.

With unprecedented access to private company headquarters, labs and top-secret launch locations - from the US to New Zealand, Ukraine to India - Vance presents a gripping account of private jets, communes, gun-toting bodyguards, drugs, espionage investigations and multimillionaires guzzling booze as their fortunes disappear.

This is the most pressing and controversial technology story of our time. Welcome to the new Wild West above the clouds.

  • Published: 16 May 2023
  • ISBN: 9780753557778
  • Imprint: WH Allen
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • RRP: $40.00

About the author

Ashlee Vance

Ashlee Vance is one of the most prominent writers on technology today. After spending several years reporting on Silicon Valley and technology for the New York Times, Vance went to Bloomberg Businessweek, where he has written dozens of cover and feature stories for the magazine on topics ranging from cyber espionage to DNA sequencing and space exploration.

Also by Ashlee Vance

See all

Praise for When The Heavens Went On Sale

The frenzied race by stargazing entrepreneurs to build a new economy in space is one of the most exciting tales of our time. Ashlee Vance, with his immersive reporting and exuberant writing, has captured the ambition and idealism of the colourful characters who are not only transforming our world but our heavens. It's the next tech frontier, and Vance turns it into a thriller

Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of STEVE JOBS

A new testament for New Space, and an eloquent, expertly-reported ode to the swaggering geniuses who are opening the final frontier


Vance has delivered that rare book that educates and entertains while opening the reader up to a brand-new universe of wonderful characters and ideas. It's non-fiction that reads like a novel

Andy Weir, author of THE MARTIAN and HAIL MARY

Through incisive reporting and colorful prose, Ashlee Vance takes us on a thrilling ride to the outer limits of human achievement

Sheelah Kolhatkar, bestselling author of BLACK EDGE

[An] energetic account...[Vance] ably captures 'the spectacular madness of it all.' With enthusiasm and solid research, this book is an entertaining, informative look at cutting-edge technology


[A] fantastic new book . . . I can highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in space, especially if you want to know how space startups work behind the public promises and marketing

Ars Technica

[An] exciting account... provides finely observed portraits of the figures behind the aerospace companies...offers a fresh look at the new space race, and Vance's feels-like-you're-there storytelling captures the "spectacular madness" of the moonshots. It's The Right Stuff for the silicon age

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The spectacle of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other technology scions shooting themselves into space may give you the idea that the whole experience is an ego trip, but Vance, the author of a best-selling biography of Musk, encourages readers to think bigger. He follows four companies - Astra, Firefly, Planet Labs and Rocket Lab - in this interplanetary land grab, all with the hope of making Earth's lower orbit the next site of technological innovation

19 Works of Nonfiction to Read this Spring, New York Times

Illuminating... For an insight into the people and culture driving the new space age, Mr Vance's book is the place to start. After the wonder of the Moon landings, space somehow contrived to become boring. These days it is exciting again


One of the best books ever written about NewSpace . . . An incredibly entertaining account of today's space industry . . . Well-written and thrilling . . . When the Heavens Went on Sale is a timely read that introduces readers to the exciting business of launching small satellites. The space-based economy is just getting started

National Space Society

An exuberant ride, happily hopping around the Pacific Rim from Kwajalein Atoll to California, from New Zealand to Kodiak Island, reveling in the do-it-yourself ethos of the new space business

New York Times Book Review

Ashlee Vance writes about a new kind of space race marked by private companies launching rockets and putting a massive number of satellites into orbit. The characters behind this new fight to dominate the skies are just as interesting as the ones [Tom] Wolfe wrote about decades ago . . . Vance's behind-the-scenes access to the companies helps explain the challenges the private space industry faces and propels the book along as he describes failed rocket launches and globe-trotting investors

Associated Press

Well-researched and insightful . . . An excellent addition to science or biography collections

Library Journal

A fascinating read about an emerging, rapidly changing industry . . . If, for any reason, you thought the people in the space industry were boring, When the Heavens Went on Sale will make it clear they far from it

The Space Review


Washington Post

Full of colorful people, risky investments, and teachable explosions, Vance's book is fascinating

Philadelphia Inquirer

The book chronicles an enthralling Wild West of ego, idealism, and regulation-skirting greed, where soaring dreams are weighed down by economics and physics. CEOs, investors, engineers, and welders alike are smitten, but their efforts yield mostly pedestrian tools that track cargo ships, measure crop growth, or make phone calls. Still, the projects keep multiplying. "Something about space," Vance writes, "allows humans to perceive themselves as being part of a timeless story and casting their lot in with the infinite

Harvard Business Review