Until recently, nearly all space exploration activities were developed and funded by governments most notably America and Russia. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was in charge of all space activities in the US while in Russia, the equivalent government agency was Roscosmos, or Russian Federal Space Agency.
But space funding by governments has been dropped over the years. For instance, in 1960’s, the US spent roughly 4.4% of its budget on space activities. Today, with the rise of CubeSat satellites and self funded space research, the figure has dropped to about 0.47%. This under-funding has attracted the filthy rich entrepreneurs and space venture capitalists to invest in space. In this article, we look at the top 5 space entrepreneurs, the guys making it possible to fly into space.
1. Elon Musk, SpaceX
SpaceX is known in full as Space Exploration Technologies and was founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Musk is well known as the founder of PayPal. After selling PayPal, Musk decided to go into space entrepreneurship.
SpaceX makes use of its Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon capsule for resupply explorations to international Space Station. Musk’s goal is much more ambitious and it is to make life multiplenary by sending human beings to Mars.
2. Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic
Sir Richard Branson entered aerospace industry in 2004. Before that, he was already an owner of retail and multimedia empire. His aerospace company is called Virgin Galactic and it is mainly focused on space tourism.
Branson wants to give the super rich a chance to tour the space. The SpaceShipTwo is slated to go to space in early 2016, with a ticket costing $250,000. To date, the company has received roughly $80 in deposits. Among the 700 people in more than 57n countries that have paid for a seat on SpaceShipTwo are Justin Bieber, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga, Candy brothers and Stephen Hawking.
3. Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin
Jeff Bezos is the CEO and founder of Amazon.com. He, like Richard Branson, is also eying the lucrative space tourism industry. His company, Blue Origin, is not only more secretive but also moving more slowly than Virgin.
The company’s first crewed suborbital exploration was slated for 2010 but this proved overly optimistic. Craft testing continues, and recently, the company announced a partnership with United Launch Alliance, America’s most popular orbital launch provider, to construct a brand new rocket engine, BE-4.
4. Paul Allen, Stratolaunch Systems
Paul Allen is a former Microsoft co-founder, and he has many multi-million dollar investments, of which space flight is one. Allen backed the SpaceShipOne project together with Burt Rutan, a retired aerospace engineer and Scaled Composites founder. Started in 2011, Stratolaunch is currently working on an aircraft carrier that represents an upgrade of WhiteKnightTwo of Virgin Galactic. It has the widest wingspan ever created for any plane.
Stratolaunch has teamed up with Orbital Sciences Corp, a company that is currently building a new kind of rocket for launching satellites. It has also partnered with the Sierra Nevada Corp, who owns a Dream Chaser spacecraft. The Dream Chaser is scheduled to be mounted on the carrier for possible crewed flights. The carrier’s first test flight is slated for early 2016, with the first space launch planned for 2018.
5. Jeff Greason, XCOR Aerospace
XCOR says it wants to build a rocket running like a car engine. The company’s claim to fame, a 2-seat rocket plane with the name of Lynx, does not exist as of this moment. However, the most important component of the concept, which is a rocket engine powered by piston pump designed to propel the pilot and the single passenger onto suborbital altitudes up to 4 times a day, looks like something feasible.
Owned by Jeff Greason, XCOR did conduct a hot-fire test last spring, which went on to confirm the simple design principle that is highly reusable and mechanically simple: the rocket’s liquid kerosene and oxygen can be refilled without wearing hazmat suits, and also that the rocket will not need replacing after a flight, which contrasts sharply with the single-use engines that the likes of Virgin Galactic use.
Aerospace industry represents a mammoth opportunity. Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, those with at least $30m in assets, are the ones pioneering the journey to space. Through the efforts of these 5 space entrepreneurs and others, it will be possible for people to fly to the outer space just to see planets like Mars and come back. Read more about those cashing in on space from the BBC or learn more about CubeSats here, and tell us your thoughts.