Transportation Cont'd... | Beyond 2020 – Part 2B
This is part 2B of a 13 part series called “Beyond 2020”, where I share my thoughts on disruptive industries which have been exposed and/or accelerated by Covid. It is a continuation of part 2A. Part 2 itself became too long of a post than I had anticipated, so I split it into 2A and 2B. Part 2A covered the Automotive sector. Part 2B will cover the Space sector. So let's get right into it.
Space is already a niche industry by default. Add to that, the complexity and resources required, make it a very high barrier to entry which very few people can enter. That being said, there are 3 disruptors I truly admire who have created innovative companies around this sector. In addition, all 3 have something else in common...can you guess? Yes, they are all billionaires. I've always said, never bet against a billionaire and secondly, pay attention to what people do and not what they say, especially if they are a billionaire.
Here they are:
1. Elon Musk – Yup, this guy again. Elon is simply a badass. His space exploration company is called SpaceX. Just like with Tesla, Elon is already ahead of the pack with SpaceX. SpaceX has partnered with NASA and in May of this year launched the first human space mission from US soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Ironically, the manned space crew on this mission just returned back to earth today as I type out this post. What a historic and monumental moment in human space flight and exploration.
What a lot of people may not realize is that prior to the human space flight, SpaceX has been doing a lot of launches on the Falcon rockets. According to Wikipedia:
Since June 2010, rockets from the Falcon 9 family have been launched 92 times, with 90 full mission successes, one partial failure and one total loss of spacecraft (numbers current as of 20 July 2020).
SpaceX has had so much practice that we have almost become numb to what an amazing accomplishment Elon and crew have demonstrated regarding the use of reusable rockets. In addition, these rocket launches have also been used for the deployment of satellites into orbit. These satellites are part of another Elon Musk project called Starlink, with the goal of delivering low-latency internet access globally.
2. Jeff Bezos – Jeff is known by the mainstream for being the founder of Amazon. But he also has a space exploration company called Blue Origin. Blue Origin has been in a lot more stealth mode and still developing its technology. But we know they've been performing quite a few test flights. The goal of Blue Origin was to start with Suborbital space flight and then incrementally build to Orbital space flight.
In simple terms, orbital space flight is the speed a space craft must achieve to reach orbital velocity which allows you to remain in space vs. suborbital which requires much lower speed to get you to the edge of space but will come back down. Space.com lays out a very good explanation between the differences. The idea is that suborbital travel will be mostly used for Space tourism. In addition, Blue Origin has secured at least 2 customers to carry satellite payloads for, into orbit.
3. Sir Richard Branson – Sir Branson is famously know for his Virgin brand and group of companies. In true Branson style, he also has a space exploration company. In fact, what's fascinating about Branson is that he has 2 space exploration entities, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit. The goal of Virgin Galactic is suborbital space flight. The goal of Virgin Orbit is orbital space flight.
Virgin Galactic is actually a public company with the ticker $SPCE. The ticker symbol has got to be one of coolest tickers out there. Virgin Galactic's core focus is Space tourism. In fact, they recently revealed the cabin interior of their suborbital vehicle which looks really good.
Virgin Orbit on the other hand is not public. One fascinating thing about the Virgin Orbit rocket is the different approach to using a launch vehicle, which is illustrated in this video. It will be interesting to see which one of these innovations will stick around or whether they can all coexist.
My theory is that a lot of these experiments will probably start out in some way with cargo, before private human travel becomes the norm. Imagine sending cargo from Australia to the US in minutes. That is truly the future.
Update Aug 3 10:51 am EST – There seems to be a lot of space industry related activity going on the last few days. Just discovered after publishing my post this morning at article about Virgin Galactic's debut of the design of their Mach 3 aircraft for commercial space travel. This update seemed very fitting and co-incidental in regards to my timing of this post. They also partnered with Rolls Royce for the engines.