Billionaire Elon Musk’s space exploration venture, SpaceX, has been vying for attention as competition in space heats up. Musk’s ambitious project was valued at north of $137 billion when it raised a whopping $750 million in a funding round in January 2023.
SpaceX manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company has successfully flown several cosmonauts to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) space research center. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is a reusable rocket, boasting 212 total launches, 170 total landings, and 147 total re-flights to date.
SpaceX is currently preparing for a Falcon 9 launch of 56 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO) from Florida. The launch is scheduled for 4:01 p.m. ET, with the option of launching both today and the following day.
Moreover, SpaceX owns a satellite center called Starlink that runs a global internet network. Starlink has sent roughly 495 satellites into space so far this year, boosting the internet connectivity speed for users in the U.S.
Several of these space technology companies are facing pressure as investors shy away from investing in risky businesses following the recent stock market plunge, lower availability of capital, and diminishing attractiveness of start-ups. Let us look at SpaceX’s competitors' current state of affairs.
A well-known SpaceX opponent is British billionaire Richard Branson’s publicly listed human spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE). SPCE has had many successful flights. However, Branson’s second space company, Virgin Orbit (NASDAQ:VORB), a smaller rocket manufacturer, is already facing liquidity problems. The failure to launch its orbital satellites from the U.K. space mission in January put the company on a temporary break.
Also in the race is billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, which is on a mission to make space travel and living a viable option. The company recently announced that it has developed “Blue Alchemist” technology that converts moon dust into solar cells. To date, Blue Origin has flown about 32 people into space since 2021. But the failure of its unmanned New Shepard suborbital rockets in September 2022 forced the company to stall flights. Recently, the company said it “expects to return to flight soon.”
Another listed company, Rocket Lab USA (NASDAQ:RKLB), recently launched its own fully reusable rocket, the Neutron, in a direct attack on SpaceX's partially reusable Falcon 9 rocket. What’s more, Neutron will transport people to space at a lower cost of $50 million and is expected to launch its first flight in 2024. Although Neutron serves the medium-lift sector and Falcon 9 serves the heavy-lift sector, analysts view Rocket Lab as one of the main threats to SpaceX.
Meanwhile, a smaller German rival, Isar Aerospace, recently raised roughly 155 million euros to finance the first launch of its Spectrum launch vehicle from Norway, scheduled for the second half of 2023. Isar’s spacecraft can launch small and medium-sized satellites into orbit. Isar has raised a total of 310 million euros to date and is poised as a prime player in the European space arena.
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