Sir Richard Branson may be trying to be the first in the billionaire race, but he believes there are many opportunities in the market for companies like Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin or Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
“There’s room for 20 space companies to get people there,” Branson said in an interview this week. “The more spaceships we can build, the more we can bring the price down and the more we can meet demand, and that will happen in the years to come.”
Virgin Galactic’s leadership previously forecast that “around 2 million people will experience space flights,” priced between $ 250,000 and $ 500,000.
The Branson, Bezos, and Musk companies are each flying spacecraft that can carry passengers, but in different ways. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are competing to take passengers to the edge of space on short flights – a sector known as suborbital tourism – while SpaceX drops private passengers on additional, multi-day flights – what is known as orbital tourism.
A SpaceX orbital flight costs tens of millions of dollars compared to the cost of Virgin Galactic of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket launches vertically from the ground, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo system is deployed in the air and returns to Earth like an airplane for a runway landing.
SpaceX launches its Crew Dragon spacecraft to orbit its reusable Falcon 9 rocket after sending 10 astronauts on three missions to the International Space Station to date. In addition to government flights, Musk’s company plans to launch several private astronaut missions in the coming year – starting with the all-civil Inspiration4 mission slated for September. SpaceX is also launching at least four private missions for Axiom Space early next year.
“There’s never been a time as exciting as now in space … it’s a moment when I pinch myself,” said Branson.
The growing space business
Astra VP of Manufacturing Bryson Gentile (left) and CEO Chris Kemp remove a protective cover from a missile fairing half.
Michael Sheetz | CNBC
Virgin Galactic was the first youngest generation space company to go public in 2019 through a SPAC or special acquisition company. This has developed into a trend over the past year, with a number of companies announcing upcoming deals and closing them public.
The rocket builder Astra and AST & Science, which specializes in satellite broadband, have each started trading, with Rocket Lab, Spire Global, BlackSky and Momentus expected to follow suit in the coming months.
When asked if he thought the space market was growing too fast, Branson rejected the idea.
“I don’t think there’s overheating,” said Branson. “I think the space world is just beginning.”
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