SpaceDev Founder Jim Benson Dies at 63

American entrepreneur Jim Benson, founder of the aerospace firm SpaceDev that helped build the rocket engine that launched the world’s first privately-built manned spaceship into suborbital space, died early Friday of a brain tumor, the company announced today.
Benson died in his sleep from a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor, which he was diagnosed with last year, SpaceDev officials said. He was 63.
“Jim was a true visionary,” said Mark Sirangelo, SpaceDev’s CEO and Chairman of the Board. “He saw that space exploration could be more effective if done commercially, and formed SpaceDev to make that dream become a reality.”
Benson founded the Poway, Calif.-based SpaceDev in 1997 after 30 years working in the computer industry.