This year’s special report highlighting some of the difference makers in the space industry prominently features, for the first time, a geographic region — as opposed to a person or organization — for its contributions. 

But Silicon Valley is so named not because of its San Francisco Bay Area location in Northern California but for the types of companies that have settled there and turned it into an epicenter of high-tech innovation and finance. Flush with cash, technical talent and entrepreneurial spirit, the region is fueling a boomlet in the small-satellite industry, both in manufacturing and applications.

Also being recognized this year is a fresh crop of individuals who have made their presence felt across the industry or, in at least once case, among a grateful few who may well be featured on these pages in the not-too-distant future. Patricia Cooper, former director of the increasingly influential Satellite Industry Association, is an example of the former; Clay Mowry, the Arianespace Inc. president who somehow manages to devote considerable time and energy to mentoring the next generation of space professionals, represents the latter.

Oftentimes, people can have great impact for the wrong reasons. This year’s influential villain is Russia’s highly entertaining Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, a hothead whose public rants in reaction to U.S. sanctions imposed following Russia’s annexation of Crimea has Washington rethinking its dependence on the former Soviet Union for rocket engines.

As always, the SpaceNews “Making a Difference” feature is not a ranking but an admittedly incomplete list. Friendly admonishments about glaring omissions — or if you prefer, suggestions for future consideration — are of course always welcome.

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Silicon Valley | The region has arrived as an engine for innovation and growth in the entrepreneurial space industry.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister | Rogozin has shaped American space policy on topics from space access to the future of the international space station largely through his words and threats. His biggest role has involved the future of the Russian-manufactured RD-180 engine that powers the first stage of the Atlas 5 rocket, announcing Russia would no longer allow the RD-180 to be used for launches of American military spacecraft.

Patricia Cooper, Former President, Satellite Industry Association | Cooper is credited with helping convince key U.S. lawmakers that reforming U.S. space technology export rules was the right thing to do. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Host of Cosmos | Tyson’s “Cosmos” series has received critical acclaim and, according to the Nielsen ratings, regularly attracted 3 million or more U.S. viewers on Sunday nights this past spring. 

Clay Mowry, Founder and Chairman, Future Space Leaders Foundation| Mowry has practically made a second career of mentoring the next generation of space leaders. It’s a role that seems to come naturally, perhaps aided by the example of Mowry’s own rapid rise in the industry.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) | Heinrich put a hold on the president’s nomination of Deborah Lee James as secretary of the Air Force until he got the answers he wanted to questions about the ORS cuts. The Air Force now has committed to keeping the ORS Office open at Kirtland at least through 2014 and has committed funding for ORS-5. 

Jim Green, Director, NASA Planetary Science Division | Green frequently identifies himself as the chief proponent for planetary science in the U.S. government. That effort has involved working not just with NASA, the White House and Capitol Hill, but also within the planetary science community.