The space race of tech billionaires: who is Jeff Bezos up against? | Space
Every billionaire needs something to spend his fortune. For Howard Hughes, it was the Spruce Goose; for Roman Abramovich, it’s Chelsea FC. And for the current crop of tech moguls, it’s space.
Jeff Bezos led the charge. He founded his company, Blue Origin, in 2000, after a conversation with his friend, science fiction author Neal Stephenson. And in July, 21 years later, the investment will pay off: Bezos blows himself up, his brother and a third paying guest 100 miles away in the company’s New Shepard rocket, grazing the edge of space to to come back to earth. three minutes later.
But while Bezos is the first tech billionaire to decide he should own a spaceflight business – and the first to sample the main benefit of that property – Blue Origin lags far behind SpaceX, Elon Musk’s hobby is become a business.
While Blue Origin was founded 21 years ago, the company operated largely under the radar until 2015 when it began testing the New Shepard. SpaceX, meanwhile, was big and loud from day one. Less than six years after its founding in 2002, it had launched into orbit the first privately funded liquid propellant rocket, Falcon One.
From there, the first follow one another: the first private mission to the ISS, the first vertical landing for an orbital rocket and the first company to send astronauts into orbit. Now, 19 years later, SpaceX is a mature company, generating $ 2 billion in revenue per year. Like Blue Origin, it has focused its investments on reusable rockets, which drastically reduce costs, and the two companies are now fierce competitors for government contracts that account for a huge chunk of space flight revenue.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, founded in 2004, takes a very different approach. She hopes to create and capitalize on the space tourism industry, by flying tourists aboard the SpaceShipTwo space plane. It was the first private spaceflight to gain wide attention, thanks to Branson’s claims it would send its first tourists to space in 2009, but years of delays – and the death of a test pilot in 2014 – have some wondering if this will be the case. never live up to those promises.
Of course, you don’t have to buy the spaceship to go to space, and Google’s Sergey Brin skipped the middleman, investing $ 4.5 million in Space Adventures in 2008. The company is now planning bringing tourists to the ISS, in partnership with SpaceX and Brin’s investment – which also served as a depot for a seat in the mission – seems to be pretty good value for money: SpaceX travel tickets are likely to be around 10 times higher.
However, all billionaires have been beaten head-on by Mark Shuttleworth, the Anglo-South African entrepreneur behind the Ubuntu operating system. Shuttleworth, with a still respectable net worth of £ 500million, simply bought a ticket on a Soyuz rocket to the ISS in 2002, spending 10 days in orbit as the second space tourist in history.