With NASA’s recent announcement of $50 million of funding for commercial crew technologies, it’s worth taking stock of other recent investments that are now spurring forward the development of a commercial spaceflight industry.
Of the major hurdles that need to be overcome for the commercial spaceflight industry to progress (investment, market, technical, regulatory), it is investment that serves as a crucial barometer for industry development as a whole. After all, investors would not be putting their dollars in play if they were not calculating potential returns that justify the risk.
Recently SpaceX secured up to $60 million of investment from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, a top-tier venture capital firm, building on an earlier $20 million investment in SpaceX by the Founders Fund that occurred in 2008.
And last week, Abu Dhabi’s Aabar Investments purchased a 32% stake in Virgin Galactic with a $280 million investment (see image above), resulting in a $900 million valuation for Virgin Galactic. Possibly even more significant was an additional $100 million commitment from Aabar Investments for Virgin Galactic to develop a launch vehicle that, using WhiteKnightTwo as a high-altitude platform, would allow Virgin Galactic to launch small orbital satellites for scientific purposes.
It is through exactly these types of innovative uses of new vehicles that we could see returns for investors well beyond those expected in their original business plans, and it is exciting that investors are already beginning to recognize this potential. Between science missions, educational flights, cutting-edge technology R&D, national security payloads, commercial satellites, missions to the International Space Station, entertainment, film & TV production, corporate sponsorships, and flights of private individuals, the demand for these services continues to diversify and this is a topic you can expect us to expand upon in future analysis on this website.
Image credit: Virgin Galactic / Mark Greenberg