Billionaire space race

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Most prominent billionaires in the race[1]
Jeff Bezos [1]
Richard Branson [1]
Elon Musk [1]

The billionaire space race[2][3][4] is the intense rivalry in NewSpace by recent space entrepreneurs, who entered the space industry as billionaires from other industries, particularly computing.[5][6] This private industry space race of the 21st century involves sounding rockets to the ionosphere (mesosphere and thermosphere), orbital launch rockets, and suborbital tourist spaceflights.[7]

Amongst the billionaires entering into New Space are:


The groundwork for the billionaire space race and NewSpace was arguably laid by Peter Diamandis, an American entrepreneur. In the 1980s, he founded an American national student space society, the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS). Later, Jeff Bezos became a chapter president of SEDS. In the 1990s, Diamandis, dissolute with the state of space development, decided to spur it on and spark the suborbital space tourism market, by initiating a prize, the X Prize. This led to Paul Allen becoming involved in the competition, creating the Scaled Composites Tier One platform of SpaceShipOne and White Knight One which won the Ansari X-Prize in the 2000s. The technology of the winning entrant was then licensed by Richard Branson's Virgin Group as a basis to found Virgin Galactic. The base techniques of Tier One also form the basis for Stratolaunch Systems of Vulcan Aerospace.[9][7] The billionaire space race shows the aims of billionaires extend beyond just fulfilling government contracts, with their own gilding of the space age, in extending capabilities and their own luster. Elon Musk has expressed excitement for a new space race.[10].


SpaceX vs Blue Origin[edit]

SpaceX and Blue Origin have had a long history of conflict.[4][6] There is a vision of a hare versus a tortoise, for the two respectively, from Blue Origin's standpoint.[11] Blue Origin and SpaceX have had dueling press releases that compete with each other's announcements and events.[12][13]

SpaceX and Blue Origin battled for the right to lease SLC 39A, the rocket launch platform that was used to launch the Apollo moon missions. SpaceX won the lease in 2013, but Blue Origin filed suit in court against that. It is currently in the hands of SpaceX, while Blue Origin rented SLC 36 instead.[6]

SpaceX filed suit against Blue Origin to invalidate their patent on landing rockets aboard ships at sea. They won their court fight in 2014. SpaceX had been attempting to land rockets at sea since 2014, finally succeeding in 2016, before Blue Origin ever even built a sea-going platform to land rockets onto.[6]

SpaceX and Blue Origin got into a Twitter battle about the meaning of a used rocket, landed rocket, spacerocket, at the end of 2015, when New Shepard successfully landed, after a suborbital jaunt into space. SpaceX had previously launched and landed its Grasshopper rocket multiple times without reaching space. Then SpaceX landed a Falcon 9 first stage, which had been used to launch a satellite into orbit, prompting more Twitter battle at the start of 2016.[6]

In late 2016, Blue Origin announced the New Glenn, directly competing against SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, with a larger rocket but lower payload.[14]

At the 2016 International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico, Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson elaborated on the Bezos vision previously outlined in the New Glenn announcement. The Blue Origin New Armstrong would be similar in function to the SpaceX Interplanetary Transport System that Elon Musk unveiled at the same conference.[15]

Blue Origin vs Virgin Galactic[edit]

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are in the same market, suborbital space tourism, with New Shepard and SpaceShipTwo (Tier 1b), respectively. They are in a race to be first to launch paying customers on short spaceshots, with rival technological philosophies of space capsules and spaceplanes, respectively[16][17][8][2][1]

Virgin Orbit vs SpaceX[edit]

Virgin Orbit and SpaceX support competing communications satellite constellations, OneWeb and Starlink, respectively. Each would launch their satellites on their own launchers, LauncherOne and Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy respectively.[citation needed] The satellite systems would compete for the same market and same bandwidth and go head-to-head at the ITU for satellite frequency licenses.[18][19]

Stratolaunch vs Virgin Galactic[edit]

Vulcan Aerospace subsidiary Stratolaunch Systems plans to air-launch satellite launcher rockets, the same profile as planned by Virgin Orbit for its LauncherOne operations. While LauncherOne is already under development and launch aircraft procured (once White Knight Two, now 747 Cosmic Girl), the Scaled Composites "Roc" Model 351 is still being developed and the rocket to mate to it has yet to be selected.[20]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Christian Davenport (2018). The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos. PublicAffairs. ISBN 978-1610398299.
  • Tim Fernholz (2018). Rocket Billionaires: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the New Space Race. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-1328662231.
  • Julian Guthrie (2016). How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-1594206726.
  • Ashlee Vance (2015). Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. Ecco. ISBN 978-0062301239.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Polina Marinova (15 November 2016). "What Billionaire Richard Branson Thinks of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk". Fortune. Time.
  2. ^ a b c d Clive Irving (19 June 2016). "Jeff Bezos Ready to Beat Richard Branson in the Billionaire Space Race". The Daily Beast.
  3. ^ a b c d Robert Lafranco (13 April 2015). "Allen and Branson Best Musk as the Billionaire Space Race Takes Off". Bloomberg.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Charles W. Luzier (17 September 2016). "The great billionaire space race". Reuters. The Week.
  5. ^ a b c Matthew Lynn (May 2016). "Watch this space: why billionaires are launching extraterrestrial adventures". The Spectator.
  6. ^ a b c d e Christian Davenport (19 August 2016). "The inside story of how billionaires are racing to take you to outer space". Washington Post.
  7. ^ a b Julian Guthrie (2016). How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight. ISBN 978-1594206726.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Mark Prigg (1 August 2016). "Virgin Galactic is back in the space race: FAA gives Richard Branson's firm operating license for space tourism". Daily Mail (London).
  9. ^ Vivek Wadhwa (19 September 2016). "The renegade whose dream started the latest space race". Washington Post.
  10. ^ Alan Yuhas (9 February 2018). "The new space race: how billionaires launched the next era of exploration". The Guardian.
  11. ^ Lauren J. Young (15 April 2016). "The Mystery Behind Blue Origin's Turtle-Friendly Coat of Arms". inVERSE.
  12. ^ Dana Hull (8 March 2017). "SpaceX Will Launch Its First Reused Rocket Later This Month". Bloomberg.
  13. ^ Rae Paoletta (31 March 2017). "Is Blue Origin's Tourist Capsule Sexier Than SpaceX's?". Gizmodo.
  14. ^ Eric Mack (12 September 2016). "Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin to take on SpaceX with supersized rocket New Glenn". cNet news.
  15. ^ Alan Boyle (27 September 2016). "Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture sets its sights on trips to Mars and the moon". GeekWire.
  16. ^ Josh Hrala (4 August 2016). "Virgin Galactic is finally licensed to take tourists into space". Science Alert.
  17. ^ Jackie Wattles (20 June 2016). "Blue Origin successfully crash tests space-tourism capsule". CNN Money.
  18. ^ Peter B. de Selding (19 January 2015). "SpaceX To Build 4,000 Broadband Satellites in Seattle".
  19. ^ Caleb Henry (27 April 2016). "LauncherOne to Start Test Missions in 2017". Via Satellite. Satellite Today.
  20. ^ Max Lewontin (20 June 2016). "Paul Allen vs. Elon Musk: a different approach to satellite launches". Christian Science Monitor.