What is the billionaire space race?

It’s called the billionaire space race, which refers to the rivalry between a group of billionaires who have entered the private space industry from other industries. A term that is constantly used when speaking about the billionaire space race is ‘NewSpace’, which refers to private spaceflights that are not funded by the government, but rather by private companies. 

The three main front runners of the race are:  

  • Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic/Virgin Orbit that looks towards space tourism and low-cost small orbital launchers 
  • Amazon Founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos, who founded the space company Blue Origin that looks towards establishing a true industrial base in space 
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk who founded SpaceX, focusing on the colonisation of Mars

Each of the three has a combined net worth of $400 billion, around the size of the GDP of Ireland. 

What’s the latest? 

Last week, Branson successfully went to space on a spaceplane dubbed VSS Unity, which was developed by his company, Virgin Galactic. Six employees, including Branson, were part of the crew. The flight is part of a series of test flights Virgin Galactic is conducting before it opens up its space tourism business. Meanwhile, Musk announced that he would be going to space on a Virgin Galactic flight in the near future.

This week, Bezos is set to go to space on July 20 at 9am EDT with his company Blue Origin. If successful, Bezos will make history for taking part in the first unpiloted suborbital flight with a civilian crew. Travelling with Bezos will be his brother Mark, an 18-year-old physics student, and 82-year-old Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk, a woman who had astronaut training in the 1960s but never made it to space. Bezos’ flight is expected to last approximately 11 minutes.

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