With successful tests of its Pegasus booster rocket in November and December, two-time INC. 500 company Orbital Sciences Corp. remains on course for the wild blue yonder. Two of the rockets, strapped to the underbellies of B-52s, performed well enough to allow scheduling of Orbital's first satellite launch early this year.

That's a job the Fairfax, Va., company is undertaking for the Department of Defense, which will be its main customer for a while. But Orbital president David Thompson is already making plans for the commercial development of space.

"Within three to five years, small satellites launched with small rockets will make possible such businesses as worldwide search-and-rescue missions," says Thompson, adding that the small satellites will also make it relatively cheap to send written or voice messages to hip-pocket communications units anywhere in the world. "It's the ultimate extension of cellular technology." -- Leslie Brokaw