Billionaire Space Race - Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos Mission to Dominate Space Tourism
November 4, 2019
Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Blue Origin all have a few things in common. All 3 companies have a rich founder, immense financial resources, and tremendous potential. Peter Diamandis, an American entrepreneur, lay the groundwork for the billionaire space race.
In the 1980s, Diamandis founded an American national student space society, the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS). Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, became a chapter president of SEDS. In the 90s, he sparked up the space tourism market by starting a prize, the X Prize. Richard Branson’s Virgin Group licensed the technology of the winning entrant as a basis for Virgin Galactic. Here are the Newspace billionaire contenders so far.
Virgin Galactic - Richard Branson
Branson founded Virgin Galactic in 2004. The company’s plans were delayed after a fatal accident killed a pilot. Virgin Galactic, which is headed by former NASA chief of staff George Whitesides, predicts VG will be ready to start commercial operations in 2020.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings became the first space-tourism business to go public on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares are trading under the ticker SPCE, rose 8% in New York trading. CEO George Whitesides said: “For the first time, anyone will have the opportunity to invest in a human spaceflight company that is transforming the market.”
Virgin Galactic raised $450m through an unconventional merger with Social Capital Hedosophia, an investment vehicle run by the former Facebook employee Chamath Palihapitiya. Existing Virgin Galactic shareholders, including Branson, will own about 59% of the new company, which will be known as Virgin Galactic Holdings. Virgin Galactic has also acquired a $20 million investment from U.S. aerospace group The Boeing Co.’s startup division HorizonX Ventures. The road map of Orbit suggests reaching Mars before SpaceX.
Virgin Orbit has promised to “design and carry out the world’s first dedicated commercial small satellite mission to Mars.” The commercial space sector is projected to be worth $2.7 trillion by 2045, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.The company has collected $80 million in deposits representing $120 million in “potential revenue” from customers including actor Tom Hanks and pop star Katy Perry, who have each paid $250,000 for a 90-minute suborbital flight.
SpaceX - Elon Musk
Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla Inc, set up SpaceX in 2002 to help humanity colonize Mars.
In September 2019, the CEO unveiled the Starship spacecraft designed to carry 100 passengers and cargo to the moon, Mars “or anywhere else in the solar system” and land back on Earth perpendicularly instead of horizontally.
Musk said orbital test flights have already begun with plans to land on the moon before 2022. This is a big step for SpaceX’s plan to launch NASA astronauts aboard Crew Dragon. Last month, NASA and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk held a press conference to discuss progress on the commercial crew program. At that event, Musk said that he felt SpaceX was aiming to do “at least” 10 successful tests of its revised ‘Mark 3’ parachute system in a row before any astronauts fly with the system in use.
The company raised over $1.3 billion in 2019 to build both Starship and Starlink, a 30,000 satellite network to provide high-speed internet coverage. According to reports, SpaceX, relies almost entirely upon the federal government to support its business model. SpaceX has received approximately $5.5 billion in taxpayer-funded revenue besides the company’s various government subsidies.
Last year, SpaceX named Japanese tycoon Yusaku Maezawa , the CEO of fashion retailer Zozo, as its first private passenger to travel around the moon, a trip that is set for takeoff in 2023.
Blue Origin - Jeff Bezos:
Amazon Inc. Founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos began Blue Origin in 2000. Bezos hopes to launch its first manned space flight on New Shepard, a reusable rocket by the end of 2019.
Blue Origin had been working on its lander for three years. They sped plans to reach the moon up in March when US vice president Mike Pence announced the directive for NASA to launch crewed missions in 2024.
Blue Origin has signed agreements with U.S. aerospace groups Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp., and Draper to build the lunar landing system. Draper will provide the flight software that will help with navigation. Lockheed Martin will build the ascent vehicle that will launch astronauts off the moon and back toward home.Northrop Grumman will build a spacecraft that will take the lander from a planned NASA space station in lunar orbit to an altitude from which it can land. All three companies are legacy players in the aerospace community.