As billionaires rush to space, industry start-ups find success

Billionaire space entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk have raised the public profile and plausibility of commercial space travel in recent years. The hype has helped fuel a wave of funding for start-ups that are building the infrastructure to take the new space race from sci-fi to reality.

Space technology represents a $ 200 billion market that includes companies that manufacture products and services for use on Earth, in orbit, or for space exploration and colonization missions. Venture capital investments in these companies hit a record $ 5.5 billion in 2020, according to market research firm PitchBook. The industry is on track to take that step with $ 3.6 billion raised in 94 deals in the first six months of this year.

Last week, Branson performed a suborbital test flight aboard Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc.’s VSS Unity and Bezos is making his own space trip today, aboard a rocket made by his company Blue Origin. . Marketing stunt or not, the increased attention around the industry has helped spur innovation and an influx of capital for companies looking to lay the foundations for space infrastructure.

“The rising tide lifts all boats,” said Daniel Ceperley, co-founder and CEO of LeoLabs, a company that provides radar tracking services for objects in low earth orbit.

The majority of capital has historically been channeled to companies focused on technology for use on Earth, including satellite communications and imagery, Earth monitoring, and geospatial analysis. However, growing ambitions to explore beyond our home planet are fueling what should be a vibrant “space-for-space economy,” wrote PitchBook analyst Ryan Vaswani in a recent report.

This new interest could benefit companies like LeoLabs, which has radar sites in Alaska, Texas, New Zealand and Costa Rica that track objects in orbit, from satellites to tiny debris, helping to prevent collisions. The startup raised $ 65 million in funding in June led by Insight Partners and Velvet Sea Ventures.

These advancements are just the start, according to Vaswani, citing the possibility that commercial space stations, space debris disposal services and manufacturing in space will emerge by 2035, as launch costs become cheaper. .


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