The GLXP is Dead! Long Live the GLXP!

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

This past week, the XPrize acknowledged the obvious:  after 10 years and multiple deadline extensions, none of the five remaining teams was going to claim the Google Lunar X Prize by landing a privately-built vehicle on the moon that would travel 500 meters across the surface while sending back high-definition video.

The first team to accomplish that goal would have claimed $20 million; the second, $5 million. But, unlike the moon race of the 1960’s, Google’s much hyped moon shot ended not with the deafening roar of a launch but the deadening silence of a dream deferred.

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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.

After Sarah Brightman, Will Sergey Brin Fly to the International Space Station?

Sergey Brin
Sergey Brin

Google co-founder Sergey Brin could be the next space tourist to journey to the International Space Station.

Space Adventures President Tom Shelley told Reuters that Brin, whose net worth is $30.2 billion, has put down a deposit on a seat aboard a future Soyuz flight to the orbiting laboratory.

“He paid us a deposit and whenever we have a seat available, he has the right of first refusal,” Shelley said.

Shelley said the company could have an open seat in 2017.

Brin and co-founder Larry Page have a deep interest in space. Their company has sponsored the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize for the first private company to land a rover on the surface of the moon. This week, Google announced the purchase of Skybox Imaging, which provides images of the Earth from space. The company also is reportedly developing a satellite network to provide high-speed broadband services on a global basis.

Before Brin flies, British soprano Sarah Brightman, will pay $52 million for a 10-day trip to the space station in September 2015. She will be the ninth person to visit ISS as a tourist since Space Adventures sent Dennis Tito there in 2002.  Brightman plans to sing during her orbital trip.

Brightman is in a race with Lady Gaga to be the first professional singer to perform in space. For more on that story, click here.

 

Is a Google-Virgin Galactic Deal in the Works?

virgin_branson_pomerantz_hangout
While Elon Musk’s lawsuit against the U.S. Air Force has dominated the headlines, another development with the potential to restructure the space industry has flown completely under the radar: a deepening relationship between Virgin Galactic and Google.

Overt the past month, Virgin Galactic conducted a series of Google Hangouts about its space tourism program in conjunction with the Google Science Fair. One hangout featured VG Vice President William Pomerantz and Richard Branson’s son, Sam; a second had three engineers live from The Spaceship Company’s FAITH hangar in Mojave, Calif; and a third featured two ticket holders who will be aboard future SpaceShipTwo suborbital tourism flights.

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Not Many Billionaires Focused on Commercial Space

branson_richardson_ss2
Richard Branson and then-Gov. Bill Richardson. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Forbes has released its annual list of the world’s billionaires. There are a record 1,426 individuals with an aggregate net worth of $5.4 trillion in the world. The table below shows the tiny handful of this group — nine individuals — who are currently or have been previously involved in space projects.

RankNameNet Worth (Billions)AgeNationalityCompany/
Business
Space Project(s)

19

Jeff Bezos$25.249AmericanAmazon.com CEO, FounderBlue Origin

20

Larry Page$23.039AmericanGoogle CEO, Co-founderGoogle Lunar X Prize, Planetary Resources
21Sergey Brin$22.839AmericanGoogle Co-founderGoogle Lunar X Prize
53Paul Allen$15.060AmericanMicrosoft Co-founderStratolaunch, SpaceShipOne
SETI array
138Eric Schmidt$8.257AmericanGoogle ChairmanGoogle Lunar X Prize, Planetary Resources
272Richard Branson$4.662BritishVirgin Group CEO, FounderVirgin Galactic
527Elon Musk$2.741AmericanPayPal, Tesla Motors, Solar CitySpaceX
831Guy Laliberte$1.853CanadianCirque du SoleilSpace tourist
1031H. Ross Perot, Jr.$1.454Americancomputer services, real estatePlanetary Resources

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SpaceX’s Elon Musk Makes Debut on Forbes Billionaire’s List

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Elon Musk has made his first appearance on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires. The 40-year-old entrepreneur has landed at 634 on the list with an estimated net worth of $2 billion.

Musk has developed the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon vehicle to send cargo and crew to the International Space Station. His company, SpaceX, has received money under NASA’s COTS  (for cargo) and CCDev (crew) programs. He is also reported to have invested up to $100 million of his own funds into SpaceX.

In addition to his involvement with SpaceX, Musk is a trustee of the X PRIZE Foundation, whose space competitions include the Ansari X Prize, the Google Lunar X Prize and the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge.

The South African-born entrepreneur also runs two other companies, the electric car producer Tesla Motors and SolarCity, which provides solar energy systems.

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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
(Billions)
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.

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The Billionauts are Back!

The Soyuz -- soon to fly again with billionauts aboard!

Pop the corks! Light up those Cubans with $100 bills! And order that Beluga caviar by the ton!

Yes, prospective billionauts around the world are celebrating today. They will soon have rides into orbit, thanks to a new deal between the Russians and an American space tourism company:

Space Adventures, the only company that has provided human space mission opportunities to the world marketplace, announced today the conclusion of an agreement with the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (FSA) and Rocket Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia) to commercially offer three seats on the Soyuz spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), beginning in 2013.

These seats will be made available through the increase of Soyuz production, from four to five spacecraft per year. Each flight will be short duration, approximately 10 days, and will contribute to the increase of launch capacity to the ISS.

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Flying to the Moon: Cheaper Than Running for Governor of California

The San Jose Mercury News looks at space tourism today. Some interesting excerpts:

Space Adventures has already sent eight paying passengers into space using Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and Google co-founder Sergey Brin has placed a $5 million down payment and is first in line for a future flight into orbit. Now, the company is advertising a trip around the moon for two paying passengers, something the company’s president, Tom Shelley, says could happen in three to four years. At $100 million a seat, a trip to the moon is a bit steep, but it’s less than one Silicon Valley tycoon spent trying to get to Sacramento.

[Editor’s Note: This last bit is a reference to former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who spent in excess of $160 million — most of it her own money — in a failed bid to become California’s governor. Don’t feel too bad for her, though; it was just a bit over 10 percent of her net worth.]

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Billionaut Brin Aims for the Stars

Master of the Online Universe
The Observer

Turning medical research on its head is just one of Brin’s current projects. At the same time as being involved, as part of a triumvirate with co-founders Larry Page and CEO Eric Schmidt, with the day-to-day running of Google, his expansion plans stretch from literature – Google has hopes of digitising every book ever published – into outer space.

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Future Billionaut Brin Sees Off Millionaut Garriott on ISS Trip

Sergey Brin (center, full head of hair) prepares for an orbital vacation aboard Zero G’s aircraft.

Google Founder Brin Visits Russian Space Cosmodrome
Reuters

“Google co-founder Sergey Brin, considering going into space on a private flight, made a surprise visit to Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome on Saturday to wish good luck to a fellow space tourist.

“Richard Garriott, a U.S. computer game developer and Brin’s friend, is due to blast off into orbit aboard Russia’s Soyuz spaceship on Sunday at 1:03 p.m. (0503 GMT) alongside U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke and Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov.

“Brin, a native of Moscow, arrived at the sprawling Soviet-era complex along with Garriott’s friends and family members to cheer for the success of his journey to the International Space Station.”

Sergey’s Space Obsession
Valley Wag

“Stop him before — whoops, too late. Over the weekend, Google cofounder Sergey Brin flew to Kazakhstan to meet with fellow space traveler Richard Garriott, better known as Lord British in the online game Ultima.”

Say Goodbye to Space Tourists: Only Billionaire “Explorers” Need Apply

Space Adventures, a company that has made millions selling orbital joyrides to people worth billions, is trying to ensure that its wealthy clients get a bit more respect.

The Virginia company that pioneered space tourism is rebranding its elite clientele as “space explorers,” pointing to the experiments that they conduct while vacationing aboard the International Space Station. In the process, the company is trying to leave its label as a “space tourism” outfit behind.

“Space tourism isn’t the right word for what we do,” Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson told Popular Mechanics. “It’s something more. What we’re doing is opening a new frontier. … We’re no longer exclusively a space tourism company, we’re a space mission company.”

Space Adventures kicked off its rebranding effort in earnest last week with the announcement that it would begin charting Soyuz flights to ISS beginning in 2011. The company currently flies tourists as the third passenger on regularly scheduled, government financed missions to the orbital outpost. The charter flights would be commercially funded, carrying a commander and two paying customers.

Google Founder Sergey Brin will likely be aboard the inaugural 2011 flight. He invested $5 million in Space Adventures, money that serves as a downpayment on a flight and makes him the charter member of the brand new Orbital Mission Explorer’s Circle. This exclusive club will have only seven members.

The rebranding effort has been ongoing for some time. Space Adventures’ client Anousheh Ansari, who flew to the space station, gave an interview to Space Future back in April in which she bristled at the label of “space tourist.” Ansari believes the six months of training made her more than just a tourist, even though she is not a professional astronaut.

In ‘Paradigm’ Shift, Space Adventures Sells Two Tickets on Same Soyuz Flight

Google Co-Founder Brin to Fly; Invests $5 Million to Join Exclusive Club of One

Space Adventures announced a deal with the Russian Space Agency on Wednesday to charter one Soyuz flight annually to the International Space Station beginning in 2011.

The flights will include one Russian cosmonaut and two paying tourists. Previously, space tourists have occupied the third seat on flights that swapped out older Soyuz vehicles attached to the station. The privately-funded mission will be conducted outside of the normal rotation of spacecraft and crews to and from the orbiting outpost, officials said.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin may occupy one of the two tourist seats on the 2011 flight. He has invested $5 million in Space Adventures, money that serves as a down payment on a space fight. The flight will apparently cost in excess of $35 million.

Brin is now the founding (and, to date, only) member of the new Orbital Mission Explorers Circle, which represent an effort “to build a definitive consortium of future private space explorers who share a lifetime goal of orbital spaceflight or the investment therein,” Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson said. The circle will eventually include six members.

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