#110 Payload – Building a Media Brand to Cover the Business and Policy of Space | Mo Islam, Co-Founder

In Episode #110, we explore building a media brand to cover the business and policy of space. We’re joined by Mo Islam, Payload’s Co-Founder, who talks with us about becoming the number one resource for space industry news. We cover everything from lowering the costs of space travel to why we are in the middle of the next space race.
Last updated
August 17, 2022
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“Very simply, we are living in the next space race, and it's going to have huge implications for the way we build technology, the way we spend dollars in military.” – Mo Islam

Mo Islam is the co-founder of Payload Space, which is building a media empire dedicated to covering the business and policy of space, as in outer space. We discovered Payload and immediately subscribed to their daily newsletter after it was recommended by Delian Asparouhov, co-founder of Varda Space Industries, in episode 71. We asked Delian what newsletters and websites he used to stay on top of everything going on in space, and he had only one answer: Payload Space. 

In this episode, we go deep on why we're at an inflection point when it comes to space and how that was unlocked, at least in the U.S., largely by SpaceX, which has brought down the price to get a unit of mass up to low Earth orbit by order of magnitude. We cover the outsized role the military and defense departments play as customers for space companies, ranging from Earth imaging to satellite manufacturing startups. We talk about the space companies that Mo thinks are the most underrated, as well as how Payload is building a media empire, starting with what Mo calls The Modern Homepage, which is their daily newsletter. We discuss how Payload crafted a compelling voice and editorial style in an old school and relatively stodgy industry, making space cool to read and learn about.

For more, explore the transcript of this episode.


This episode is our definitive guide to building a media brand to cover the business and policy of space. In it we cover:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:02:36 – How Payload focuses on the business and policy of space
  • 00:10:54 – How Elon Musk has changed the space race
  • 00:15:17 – Aerospace and defense go hand in hand
  • 00:18:11 – Earth imaging illuminates the atrocities of war
  • 00:19:36 – We are living in the next space race
  • 00:22:52 – SPACs and space
  • 00:28:57 – How we’ll move from government to commercial spending in space
  • 00:33:11 – Reusable second stages and lowering the costs of space exploration
  • 00:36:59 – What scaling Starlink could mean for space travel
  • 00:39:40 – Launching a media brand and the importance of voice
  • 00:43:32 – Making Payload the most important voice in the space discussion
  • 00:51:49 – Learning from feedback and embracing boredom

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Castbox, Pocket Casts, Player FM, Podcast Addict, iHeartRadio, or on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Big Takeaways

  • Whether we realize it or not, we are currently living in the next space race, as we compete with eastern countries to excel in the space industry and prove that democracy can help create progress and innovation.
  • Elon Musk has completely changed the way companies approach risk, encouraging iteration and more bravery in companies, including in the space industry. Partly because of this, the space industry is poised to grow exponentially.
  • The creation of reusable second stages for rockets is one of the most exciting advances in space technology, as it can drastically reduce the cost of space travel, opening up the field for more companies to build and innovate.

Our Favorite Quotes

Here are a few ideas we'll be thinking about weeks and months from now:

  • “I'm going to say in 30 years, if you want to go to the moon, you will be able to go to the moon. It might cost a lot, but I think you will be able to go to the moon.”
  • “Embrace boring. Sometimes there are parts of building a business that are just not exciting, and they're not sexy. You just don't want to do it, but it's okay. Not every single part of company building is like, "Oh, you just won this great contract or you just closed this big customer and let's celebrate." Most of it is actually not that.”
  • “I think if you really look forward for the next 10 years, I think that what you're going to see is that those generational defining companies are going to be within space, and they're going to be within climate tech, and they're going to be within biotech.”
  • “The government has always been and will for the foreseeable future be the biggest buyer of space services and aerospace and defense services. That's going to continue to drive and shape innovation in the space.”
  • “I think one of the biggest issues of the industry is that a lot of civilians don't understand the power of space tech—and that's one of the things that we are trying to solve, helping folks understand this industry is actually phenomenally important to what we do every day.”

5 Ways to Dive Deeper

Want to dive deeper? Here the best content we've curated on this subject:

Selected Links

We covered a lot of ground in this interview. Here are links to the stories, articles, and ideas discussed:

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