It is striking how much of the new blood in the space business is from people who made their fortunes in the software/internet industry (see below for a list). These fortunes comprise fabulous sums of money, and the people who made the fortunes have a lot of talent and business execution skills. This new blood is like a breath of fresh air to the space industry, which currently is dominated by those who have been brought low by the government's aversion to risk-taking ventures. It's an insiduous "cost plus" culture, which kills all manner of technological innovation in the cradle.
The difficulties are so great that I wonder whether these pioneers in space transportation are throwing their money away. Rocket development is an expensive, risky proposition and can run through fortunes in a heartbeat. On the other hand, this may represent a class of people dipping their toe into the water to see if the space business can be turned around. Few fortunes are seriously on the line as of yet.
As laid out in a previous post, the financials for a rocket company are pretty tough. Because of this, I have been thinking about how future software pioneers turned space businessmen can encourage growth of the industry while making solid business decisions. The best answer that I can come up with is not to crowd the new space transportation business market, but rather to build businesses that require space transportation in quantity.
This is not to say that there will be no opportunities in the space launch business, of course. SpaceX could require a round or two of funding for heavier man-rated rockets or capsules, for instance. Further, if the space transportation business finds it worthwhile to fund non-transportation space ventures, like happened with the build-out of the railroads, then the medium-term opportunities will be tied more directly to the space transportation companies. However, the space business hasn't followed this path to date, perhaps because of the inordinate weight of the government in all space-related business decisions.
I may write about suitable space ventures from time-to-time in subsequent posts, if I have anything worthwhile to say. A lot of ink has been devoted to this by others in the past, much of it unsatisfying. It's a very tough business nut to crack.
Space ventures supported by software pioneers
Elon Musk (PayPal founder) -- Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) -- Orbital light to medium kerosene/liquid oxygen rockets.
Paul Allen (Microsoft founder) -- SpaceShipOne -- Suborbital space plane.
John Carmack (Id Software founder) -- Armadillo Aerospace -- Suborbital hydrogen peroxide/methanol rockets.
Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com founder) -- Blue Origin -- Enabling technologies.