In stark contrast to the space race of the 20th century, which saw governments compete with each other, the modern space race is primarily taking place in the private sector. This is partly due to waning interest from governments in space missions, but it is also due to potential commercial opportunities to launch satellites and create new modes of human transportation.
The three companies that get the most attention are SpaceX (backed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk), Blue Origin (backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos), and Virgin Galactic (backed by entrepreneur Richard Branson).
With the upcoming IPO of Virgin Galactic via a reverse merger with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings (NYSE:IPOA), it’s as good a time as any to learn about the leaders in the commercial space sector.
Virgin Galactic: space tourism
Starting with Virgin Galactic — the company was founded in 2004 and has spent the last 15 years developing rocket technology and assembling vehicles capable of transporting humans into space. Virgin Galactic has been very public about its goal of becoming a space tourism business, but it also believes it can disrupt long-haul travel if it can get the cost of space travel down enough.
Virgin Galactic is poised to become the first commercial space transportation and tourism business when it starts flying passengers in 2020. It sounds like a ridiculous premise for a business, but the company already has collected $80 million in deposits for its first 600 reservations. The going rate for a tour package is $250,000, which includes a four-day itinerary of training for the journey culminating in a flight where guests spend a full 90 minutes in space.
The company is further along than peers in human