I once knew a guy named Michael Dust. He had these business cards that looked like they were hand-cut from cereal boxes. They were stamped with Dust’s name, and the title “President,” along with the legend “Special Projects.” I haven’t seen the guy in years, and I’m sure I wouldn’t even recognize him on the street. But I’ll never forget his cards.

I guess those cards made such an impression on me because we all have our Special Projects, those wild-haired schemes we dream will make us rich and famous or somehow change the world. Usually we don’t tell people about them because we’re afraid they’ll laugh at us. Not Michael Dust. He stamped them on his homemade business cards. I loved the audacity of that.

In the spirit of Michael Dust, I thought I’d share with you some of my Special Projects in progress. These are stories in the commercial space world I’m actively tracking and which will be the subjects of upcoming magazine and newswire stories of mine (as well as a lot of activity on this blog):

X Prize Cup. This is the first annual spaceship show put together by X Prize founder and president Peter Diamandis. It’ll take place October 6-9 this year, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I’m going with Wendy and baby Amelie to make a family vacation out of it as well as a business trip. Some of the folks who competed for the X Prize, along with some new-comers will show their work in progress. As well as writing about the event, I’ll shoot photos as the first assignment for a photojournalism course I’ve sign up for. Look for the photos here on the blog as well.

Virgin Galactic
. I met the president of Virgin Galactic last spring at the International Space Development conference in Washington. Very friendly guy, and a very articulate spokesman for the company, which wants to send the first paying tourists into suborbital space within three years. Lots that hasn’t been written about them yet, and they’ve been very busy lately….

Bigelow Aerospace. I wrote a cover story on Robert Bigelow’s commercial space station operation for the March issue of Popular Science. Since then Bigelow’s made real progress toward a first launch early next year. Bigelow filled me in on some of his latest Special Projects on the phone recently, and I think some updates are in order.

SpaceX. This company looks at long last ready for a first launch before the year is out, possibly even by the end of this month. Unfortunately, that first launch will take place in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific–not exactly easy to reach. Even so, I’ll be following it closely since that first launch, if successful, will tremendously boost the company’s credibility, put it on the road to profitability, and pave the way for SpaceX chief Elon Musk’s Special Project for sending people to Mars.

Stay tuned….