Brin, Bezos Top Forbes’ List of New Space Billionaire Backers

Richard Branson

Forbes has put out its list of the world’s 1,210 billionaires, a half dozen of whom have ties to the New Space community.

RankNameAgeNet Worth
CompanySpace Involvement
24Sergey Brin37$19.8GoogleGoogle Lunar X Prize, Prospective billionaut
24Larry Page37$19.8GoogleGoogle Lunar X Prize
30Jeff Bezos47$18.1AmazonBlue Origin
57Paul Allen58$13.0MicrosoftSpaceShipOne, SETI telescope array
254Richard Branson60$4.2Virgin GroupVirgin Galactic
459Guy Laliberte51$2.5Cirque du SoleilBillionaut visitor to ISS

All six billionaires are males from North America and Britain with a combined net worth of $77.4 billion. The most prominent of them — Richard Branson — has the second lowest net worth of the group. His company, Virgin Galactic, is undertaking the most expensive New Space project to date at a cost of more than $400 million.

I could not find Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi sheikh who invested $280 million in Virgin Galactic through Aabar Investments. Forbes listed him as having a net worth of $4.9 billion in 2009, but he does not appear this year.

How much Jeff Bezos has spent on Blue Origin is secret, along with almost everything else about his suborbital New Shepard vehicle. Last week, SwRI’s Alan Stern said that the five U.S. suborbital companies represented more than $1 billion in investment. It’s likely that Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin make up the bulk of that funding, given their billionaire backers. Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems and XCOR don’t have nearly that much funding.

Neither Elon Musk, who is backing SpaceX, nor Robert Bigelow, whose Bigelow Aerospace is developing private space stations, appears on the list. I also could not find Dennis Tito, the NASA engineer turned investment guru who became the first space tourist 10 years ago.

The Forbes list includes 1,210 billionaires with a net worth of $4.5 trillion, the highest totals ever. So, there are a lot of potential investors out there to tap. The step is to actually fly into space. Do that, and this list could get a lot longer.

  • Michael Turner

    I don’t think Dennis Tito was ever worth as much as a billion. More likely in the hundred millions. (As in the case of Mark Shuttleworth, who I think topped out at $225M.) But if orbital space tourism has a market, it’s more likely in that stratum than among the actual billionaires, if only because there are so many more wealthy people in the range from $100M to $1B net worth. “Billionaut” is an ingenious term, but it overstates what’s required to afford a ticket, and I think it even overstates how wealthy most of the so-called “billionauts” have been. Richard Garriot claimed that going to space took most of his net worth. He also claimed that he covered much of the expense by doing some experiments for hire on ISS — a real “working vacation” if so.