A Closer Look at Which Space Companies U.S. VC’s are Investing in

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

NASA’s new publication, “Economic Development of Low Earth Orbit,” consists of a series of papers that examines a number of important policy questions that will be of rising importance as NASA transitions human spaceflight in LEO to the private sector.

One of the papers, “Venture Capital Activity in the Low-Earth Orbit Sector,”
has detailed information on what U.S. venture capitalists have invested in. Key excerpts from the paper follow.

Private Sector Seeks Profit, Adventure Beyond Earth Orbit

Credit: Golden Spike Company

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

With human flights beyond Earth orbit not expected to occur for at least eight years, the private sector is increasingly eying deep space for a series of ambitious robotic and human missions for both adventure and profit.

Nine programs are currently underway that include robotic and human landings of the moon, human flybys of the moon and Mars, the mining of the moon and asteroids, and even a settlement on Mars. Backers of these initiatives include the X Prize Foundation, Google and its executives, and the world’s first space tourist, Dennis Tito.


Esther Dyson, John Logsdon on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with David Livingston….

Monday, Feb. 7, 2011 , 2-3:30 PM PST.
We welcome Don Green of the Napoleon Hill Foundation. During this program, we will be applying Napoleon Hill philosophy and rules to space development. We will also be giving away books to callers.

Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, 7-8:30 PM PST:
Open Lines with priority for first time callers. The topics to be discussed include the European Code of Conduct for Outer Space and what this means for the developing commercial space industry (if anything), increasing EELV prices and what this means for science and other missions, new efforts to keep Shuttle flying, and Bigelow Aerospace being ITAR exempt and the Bigelow plans for the Space Coast of Florida.

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011 , 9:30-11 AM PST
: We welcome back Dr. John Logsdon to discuss his new book “John F. Kennedy and the Race To The Moon.” This is book is now available on the OGLF Amazon partners page. We will also be discussing space policy developments.

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011, 12-1:30 PM PST.
We welcome back Esther Dyson to the program. Esther is a NewSpace investor. We will be discussing investment in the developing and emerging commercial space industry.

Space Manufacturing 14 Video: Moon, Mars or Asteroids First Discussion

A video of the “Moon, Mars, Asteroids: Where to Go First for Resources?” panel discussion held during  the Space Studies Institute’s Space Manufacturing 14 conference in Silicon Valley. Moderated by tech investor Esther Dyson, the discussion included:

  • Prof. Mike A’Hearn, University of Maryland, Dept. of Astronomy
  • Prof. Greg Baiden, Penguin Automated Systems
  • Mark Sonter, Asteroid Enterprises Pty Ltd
  • Prof. John Lewis, Space Studies Institute
  • Dr. Paul Spudis, Lunar and Planetary Institute
  • Jeff Greason, XCOR Aerospace.

Dyson: Commercial Space Ready for Private Equity But Not Institutional Venture Capital

Steve Forbes has a Q&A with XCOR and SpaceX investor Esther Dyson, who has some thoughts about the growing entrepreneurial space industry:

Dyson: On the space side I think it’s not, you know, it’s not ready for institutional venture capital yet. But it’s ready for private equity. I think some of these companies will make real money for their investors over time. And of course they’ll bring real pleasure to their customers.

They can afford to take more risks than government. And they also can just operate more efficiently and quickly, and trial and error is really the best way to do a lot of this stuff. And the government can’t afford error, unfortunately.

Read the full interview.

NASA Revamps Advisory Council Committees


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden held his first meeting with the restructured NASA Advisory Council recently at the agency’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. Bolden has added four new committees to the council in key areas of importance to the agency’s future: Commercial Space, Education and Public Outreach, Information Technology Infrastructure, and Technology Innovation.


Why Tech Geeks are Space Cadets

Millionaut Richard Garriott aboard the International Space Station with five other lesser known professional space travelers.
Millionaut Richard Garriott aboard the International Space Station with five other lesser known professional space travelers.

Geeks in Space
The Big Money

There’s a documentary called Orphans of Apollo that’s stated this well,” [Richard Garriott] explained. “There’s a generation of us, who are the tech leaders of today, who were universally inspired to go into science and technology because of the NASA Lunar Space Program. And the reason the movie is called Orphans of Apollo is because, in many ways, we feel orphaned by the fact that the space industry has not done a good job of capitalizing on that momentum of what many of us believed were the first steps into space, carrying the mission of human space flight farther and farther into deep space.”


Simonyi Space Tourism Mission Enters Final Prep Stage

Space crew candidates face final test
Russia Today

Russian cosmonauts and their NASA colleagues, as well as two space tourists, are taking an exam in Star City near Moscow on Tuesday. The results will decide who’ll make up the crew of the next mission to the ISS.

One of the space tourists, Charles Simonyi, is hoping to travel to the International Space Station for the second time and thus become the first one to do so twice. Simonyi went to the spacecraft in April 2007.


Dyson: Spaceflight Training is Positive Alternative to Double Mastectomy

Esther Dyson has penned a short op-ed piece for The Moscow Times explaining why she is spending about $3 million to train as a backup for a space tourism flight to ISS. It is a standard millionaut bio piece (I had stars in my eyes since I was a kid. This is my dream come true!) that recounts all of her space tourism investments and makes a plug for her genome project.

Toward the end, however, it takes a sharp right turn toward Crazytown:


Esther Dyson in Training as Backup for ISS Flight

Bambi Francisco of Vator News has an interview with Internet and commercial space investor Esther Dyson, who says she will soon start training as a backup for a Soyuz flight to the International Space Station.

“Was the Internet and high-tech sectors just getting boring? I asked.

“‘It’s not that the Internet is boring,’ she responded. ‘But to some extent the intellectual risk is gone.’


Esther Dyson Backing XCOR Tourism Vehicle

The Antelope Valley Press has an interesting piece on financier and space enthusiast Esther Dyson, who is one of the angel investors backing XCOR Aerospace’s Lynx space tourism vehicle.

“This is a very real-world company. It’s not out here making wide-eyed promises,” Dyson told the Press.

Dyson, founder of EDventure Holdings, has investments in Space Adventures, Zero-G Corporation, Constellation Services International, Airship Ventures and Icon Aircraft. She also helped to fund Flickr and del.icio.us, which were both sold to Yahoo!

Dyson is organizing the fourth annual Flight School, which will be held in Boulder Colorado, on June 6-8. The website describes the confab as “an executive workshop for entrepreneurs who want to identify and address major challenges facing start-ups in private aviation and commercial space.”

David Livingston of The Space Show recently interviewed Dyson. You can listen to the podcast here.

Fourth Annual “Flight School” Workshop Planned for June

Imaginova Corp. and Esther Dyson of EDventure announced today that they will jointly present Flight School 2008: Where the Rubber Meets the Clouds. The intensive three-day workshop allows participants to identify and address the major challenges facing entrepreneurs in private aviation and commercial space. Flight School 2008 will take place June 4 to 6 at the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder, Colorado.

Flight School 2008 participants will include entrepreneurs, marketers, equipment manufacturers, aircraft and facilities operators as well as analysts, investors and regulators. They will come together to share experiences, refine strategies and better understand each other’s common pursuits and competitive positions.

“Personal spaceflight and private aviation start-ups are transforming the establishment in an exciting way,” said Dyson, creator of the Flight School workshops, chairman of EDventure and former host of PC Forum. “Years ago, I watched the Internet and the PC transform information technology from a world of scientists and government-funded high priests into a vibrant, innovative sector of commercially energized and fearless start-ups who have changed the world. Flight School 2008 is assembling the pioneers who will lead a similar transformation in air and space.”

Planned discussion topics for Flight School 2008 include:

  • The air traffic control challenge: Growing up around an old model
  • Air taxis: What have we learned so far?
  • Air charter economics: Can they last?
  • Safety, reliability and innovation
  • Environmental issues: Facing the facts
  • Finance: Where the money meets the clouds
  • Insurance and legal issues
  • Sizing the commercial space market
  • The aftermarket: Hotels, tours and training

Flight School 2008 workshop sessions will be moderated by Dyson; Lon Rains, Editor-in-Chief of Space News and Christian Kjelgaard, Senior Editor of Aviation.com.