Private Companies Won the Space Race in 2017 With Nearly $4B in New Investments
It seems like it was just a few years ago that we mourned the end of NASA's space shuttle program and waxed philosophical about the death of humanity's collective interest in traveling to the stars. Sure, we still had the ISS, but that was about it. No one expected a brand-new space age to erupt, but 2017 may mark the moment when space exploration made its triumphant return.
According to CNBC, 120 venture capital firms poured roughly $3.9 billion into commercial space companies last year, making it "the year of commercial launch." The investment firm Space Angels estimates that there are about 303 commercial space companies in the market now, with about one-fifth primarily developing landers and launch technology.
What's especially impressive is that rockets developed by commercial space companies may already be more efficient than their government counterparts: the launch success percentages for government rockets (including small, medium, and heavy) ranges from 83 percent to 96 percent, while commercial rockets have success ranges between 88 percent and 99 percent.
On top of that, Space Angels has assessed the rockets in development by both private and government programs and found that private companies will reach a new milestone in launch capacity (500,000 kilograms) for about a third of the price—$4.2 billion, compared to government programs' $6.6 billion.
According to Chad Anderson, CEO of Space Angels:
"It is undeniable that entrepreneurial space companies are disrupting the launch industry," Anderson said. "What we haven't seen is a revolutionary new class of launch vehicle, developed by incumbents in response. Instead, what we've seen is corporate venture arms and efforts to lobby the government for increased subsidies."
With new technology already in the works to help establish Martian colonies (and new fears over actual space wars), the surge in new companies and investors joining the space race means that we'll have more than just Elon Musk pushing humans to explore the stars—space tourism, asteroid mining, and the search for alien life are all waiting for the next generation of astronauts.