Billionaires Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos have been flashing quite frequently in the news recently. And the reason is them taking off from this world, quite literally!
While it sounds quite fascinating to witness our globe from outer space, it is quite an undertaking to venture into the astronautical world. Space travel, which predominantly included government agencies, has seen private capital flow with the advent of the aspect of rides to space for commoners. And there seems to be a tight race going on between the above-mentioned space enthusiastic companies.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic has already been on its maiden ride to space on the 11th of July at 14.30 (2.30pm) GMT. The crew lifted off from Virgin Galactic’s operational base at Spaceport America in the New Mexico desert. The space aircraft, VSS Unity, was said to have touched a height of 86kms (53 miles) after being released at about 14020m launch point. The members aboard the aircraft included Branson along with 2 pilots and 3 passengers.
Fun Fact: One of the 3 passengers to jet off to space with Branson was Sirisha Bandla, Vice-President of Government Affairs and Aeronautical Engineer at Virgin Galactic. She became the third Indian-origin woman to fly in space.
Very close to Richard Branson’s flight is Bezos’ Blue Origin blast-off on 20th July. Blue Origin’s reusable rocket, New Shepard, is set to depart from a launchpad in West Texas. Bezos is to fly with a group of 3 others. They are approximated to reach an altitude of 100 km (62 miles), surpassing the Kármán line which is the hypothetical line separating Earth from space.
A healthy competition ensued between the 2 rivals. One tried to downplay it while the other was anything but subtle.
And, not lagging behind is Elon Musk’s SpaceX. SpaceX has already sent several astronauts to the International Space Station, a multinational collaborative space station in low Earth orbit.
SpaceX is now set to send its first all-civilian spacecraft, Crew Dragon, into space in September 2021 and, surprisingly, doesn’t include Musk onboard.
The news would have it that Virgin Galactic has more than 600 reservations for the space flight already with a price as high as $250,000. It hopes to slice down the price to $40,000 once it’s commercial wing starts operation by 2022.
On the other hand, according to a report in 2018 by Reuters, Blue Origin was to charge $200,000 for a ride to its passengers. They have, however, refused to reveal the details of the price. We can only hope that they revise the price to a fair one considering its rival’s offering. Only time will tell!
So now, let’s have a look at how these space startups have been bringing in the funds to launch to great heights, figuratively and literally. After all, nothing can be built out of thin air. Without any further ado, let’s glance at the financial modeling, specifically the project finance modeling of these startups!
The space tourism company founded in 2008 by Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic was the first-ever spacecraft company to go public without an IPO, in 2019.
According to an article by Virgin Galactic, the amount paid by the 600 or so individuals brought in around $80 million as deposits for the company and the potential for $120 million more. But in order to make its dream of space tourism a reality, a much bigger amount was needed.
So in 2019, Virgin Galactic and Social Capital Hedosophia announced a merger to become the world’s only publicly traded space tourism company. Social Capital Hedosophia provides an alternative to traditional IPOs to help companies achieve their objectives without being deterred by the pitfalls of going public.
“By taking Virgin Galactic public, at this advanced point in its development, we can open space to more investors and in doing so, open space for thousands of new astronauts” stated Branson.
Taking off on this 20th July, the all-civilian spacecraft includes Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, an 82-year-old aviation pioneer Wally Funk and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen.
Fun Fact: The 18-year-old was chosen in place of a wealthy space enthusiast who paid $28 million but couldn’t make it for the flight due to ‘schedule conflicts’.
This will make Funk and Daemen the oldest and the youngest person to ever fly in space.
Blue Origin is a privately-held company founded in 2000 by the former Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, with its headquarters in Kent, Washington. Until 2018, as stated in public by Bezos himself, Blue Origin was apparently funded by Bezos by selling off his equity of Amazon amounting to the US $1 billion.
As of recently, a US Innovation and Competition Act bill were passed in the House of Representatives. The amendment of this bill could potentially inject $10 billion dollars to a contractor selected by NASA. Though Blue Origin isn’t mentioned in the amendment, it does state that the company is from Washington. So it can be assumed to be Blue Origin.
SpaceX is a privately funded aerospace company founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Through the various funding rounds, SpaceX has already pumped in billions of dollars. And the key investors invested in this private space company include Alphabet Inc and Fidelity Investments among others.
According to Pitchbook, a company that delivers data of the ongoings in global finance reported that in August 2020, SpaceX raised $1.9 billion in single funding which was its largest funding to date.
In February 2021, in its amended regulatory filing, SpaceX stated that it raised $850 million. This raised the company’s value to a whopping $74 billion. Apart from this, Musk said that the sum received from the company’s chartered flights would be invested in Moon and eventually Mars missions.
To wrap it all up, these billionaires are on their way to create space tourism an experience to be relished. Not just that, they have also opened Space as an investment option to the entire world.
Just like in the olden days’ people had a wish to travel and see the world, people in our time would fantasize about traveling to space at least once in their lifetime.
So strap yourselves, be ready and start saving up for the space flight that’s waiting not very far in the future!