Number of Billionaires Investing in Space Projects Grows

Forbes has published its annual list of the planet’s billionaires. A small but growing number of them are either directly supporting major space projects or doing so through the companies that they run.

FORBES RANKNAMEAGE
2015 NET WORTH (BILLIONS)
SOURCE(S) OF WEALTH
SPACE INVESTMENT(S)
 15Jeff Bezos51 $34.8Amazon.comBlue Origin
16Mark Zuckerberg30
 $33.4FacebookGlobal satellite network
19Larry Page41$29.7 GoogleSpaceX, Planetary Resources, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
20Sergey Brin 41 $29.2GoogleSpaceX, Planetary Ventures, Google Lunar X Prize, Skybox
43Charles Ergen62$19.8DISH NetworkDISH Network
51Paul Allen62 $17.5 Microsoft, investmentsStratolaunch Systems, SETI, Mojave Aerospace Ventures (SpaceShipOne)
100Elon Musk43$12PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, SolarCitySpaceX
137Eric Schmidt59$9.1GoogleSpaceX, Google Lunar X Prize, Planetary Ventures, Skybox
330Richard Branson
64$4.8Virgin GroupVirgin Galactic, Planetary Resources, OneWeb
1006Kavitark Ram Shriram58$1.9Google, venture capitalPlanetary Resources
1105H. Ross Perot, Jr.56$1.8 Computer services, real estatePlanetary Resources
1324Charles Simonyi 67$1.4MicrosoftPlanetary Resources
1415Peter Sperling55$1.3University of PhoenixEcliptic Enterprises

I’ve added Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to the list this year. His company is reportedly working on a global broadband network that would involve satellites, although details of the plan have not been made public.

I’ve left off Cirque du Soleil’s Guy Laliberte, who came in at number 1006 with a net worth of $1.9 billion. Although he once took a trip to the International Space Station, he is not known to be funding any major space projects at the moment.

Update: I’ve added Charles Ergen and Peter Sperling to the list. Big shout out to Rex Ridenoure over at Ecliptic Enterprises.

  • therealdmt

    Okay, well I could obviously look it up, but for the purposes of discussion, what is Planetary Resources and Planetary Ventures, and what is the difference between them? I gather at least one is for asteroid mining. Looks like a lot of money is going into this, but to what end?

    Comments?

    I’ll note profitable asteroid mining would seem a bit far out, though of course potentially majorly disruptive.

    Seems like in the short to even medium term, lowering launch costs is the big key, though 3D printing and such, robotics and ISRU could make that somewhat less critical in the medium term.

  • Douglas Messier

    Planetary Ventures is a Google subsidiary that signed the lease on Moffett Field. They’re pursuing a number of projects, some believed to be related to space.

  • Ian1102

    Some are funded by venture firms that are dominated by a particular billionaire. For instance, Vinod Khosla has invested in Skybox and Rocket Lab through Khosla Ventures. Also Peter Thiel (through Founders Fund) in SpaceX, Planet Labs and Accion Systems

  • therealdmt

    Thanks, Douglas. A quick search shows Planetary Resources is ‘The Asteroid Mining Company’. Okay, so they’re just getting going but that’s the one I’ve been hearing about.

    I guess then that Planetary Ventures is the one that’s harder for me to get a handle on. Gizmodo calls them “a Google shell company” (http://gizmodo.com/google-now-has-a-nasa-blimp-hangar-to-go-with-its-barge-1520596330/1657058955/+ace), not that is necessarily definitive or anything. Still, it brings up the question of what is “Planetary Ventures” and is that of interest to those of us who hope for progress in expanding both the economy and mankind out into the solar system (and eventually beyond).

    Or is it just a way for Google to get cheap aviation fuel for their corporate jets? Sounds terrible, but to some extent at least that has in fact been happening…

    Anyway, it would be great if Google is investing big money in private and/or commercial space. They just went into an investment in SpaceX, so it would not seem to be unlikely. I just wonder what it is.

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    “Planetary Resources”, among others, have announced the development of laser communication systems between the spacecraft that move in space. This technology is a key for the project global Internet from Google and SpaceX. It can deliver intercontinental traffic with small delays.

  • therealdmt

    Lasers. Right on.

  • windbourne

    Do note that when musk started this, he was not billionaire.

  • OdiousJack

    And none of the above support Xcor? Shame!

  • Valerij Gilinskij

    Yes, lasers. And yet – the guidance system and aiming.