What would you do if you were a billionaire and wanted to go to space?
The obvious answer: use that money to start a company to help you do just that.
In recent years, some of the most famous names in tech, like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos have been founding and investing in companies that are looking to the stars.
Whether for personal dreams of adventure or for profit, these companies are doing the engineering and basic science needed to get humans into space.
They’re also looking at other opportunities that space provides, like access to resources that are hard to get on Earth and the ability to collect information about our planet from a different perspective.
1. SpaceX: The “other” company from Tesla founder Elon Musk. In the short term, it’s building rockets and capsules to get astronauts to the International Space Station. In the long term, it’s looking to make trips to Mars somewhat affordable by creating rockets that can be used many times, like the “Grasshopper” below, which can take off and land instead of simply falling into the ocean.
2. Planetary Resources: With financial backing from Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, “Avatar” director James Cameron, and others, Planetary Resources is looking at revolutionizing the tech world by mining nearby asteroids for metals that are extremely rare on Earth but found in abundance in space.
3. Blue Origin: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is well-known for his love of all things space. While he founded Blue Origins in 2000, it’s only in recent years that he’s become more open with the progress his company is making towards making manned spaceflight affordable.
4. Planet Labs: Using 28 miniature satellites known as “CubeSats,” Planet Labs aims to provide more detailed and more frequently updated images of our planet than have previously been available. These photos will allow for traffic maps and environmental data to be more accurate than ever.
5. Kymeta: Like other companies with backing from Bill Gates (who both provided initial cash and contributed to a $50 million venture round), Kymeta is a company looking to make a positive social impact. The company plans to use orbiting satellites and low-cost receivers to provide Internet to vehicles and also to isolated areas in the developing world.
6. Orbital Sciences: Though it has a background in launching satellites and missile defense systems, Orbital has been making great strides in recent years towards providing vessels for NASA, putting it in direct competition with SpaceX.
7. Deep Space Industries: Like Planetary Resources, Deep Space Industries hopes to mine asteroids for materials that are worth insane amounts due to their rarity on Earth. The company plans to identify viable asteroids in the next two years and begin mining within a decade.
8. Stratolaunch Systems: Founded in 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Stratolaunch is looking to make spaceflight more affordable by using massive, lightweight planes to do most of the work of getting people and cargo off the ground.
9. SkyBox Imaging: With backing from CrunchFund’s Michael Arrington, SkyBox is deploying a fleet of miniature satellites, much like Planet Labs. The company is looking to use these for a much wider range of uses however, including oil and natural gas site selection, reporting of natural disasters, urban planning, and agriculture.
10. Masten Space Systems: Based in Southern California, Masten is dedicated to making advanced, reusable rockets that can take off and land vertically many times, in the same vein as SpaceX’s “Grasshopper.”