Could SpaceX herald a $1 trillion a year space business?

A thought-provoking feature in Fortune magazine suggests that the world might be on the cusp of a new clutch of space pioneers. It says that the likes of Elon Musk (SpaceX), Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin rockets) as well as cash from Bill Gates (Microsoft), Google’s Sergey Brin and even Virgin’s Richard Branson could all be the forerunners of a new ‘space age’.

Musk is backing interplanetary travel with his Falcon ‘BFR’, which is his cheeky way of saying that it’s a really big rocket. Destined for Mars, few today believe that Musk’s suggestion of getting from the USA to Australia in under an hour is wholly realistic despite the theoretical possibility! After all, the truth currently is that the journey would actually have to be from a rocket launch site in the US to a landing site in Australia, or the UK, or wherever. And that means quite a few political challenges as well as environmental and logistical obstacles to be overcome. But never say never where Musk is concerned.

Much more likely is a true revolution in how Space is used, for low-cost and ubiquitous broadband everywhere, with commensurate benefits for a dozen players, not least Bill Gates, Google and the rest.

Whether Greg Wyler’s OneWeb and his 4,000 or so low Earth orbiting satellites will kick-start this revolution is still to be seen, but SES-backed O3b is already winning new clients and rapidly expanding demand for broadband in some far-off and underserved countries and territories. The fact that its greatest success happens to be cruise ship passengers is neither here or there. Those 6,000 passengers plus crew are busy creating new demand for Facebook, Snapchat, the latest sports scores and non-stop video.

Fortune quotes an analysis from investment bank Morgan Stanley which talks of dramatic expansion in e-commerce and digital advertising, and also suggests that Elon Musk’s currently privately-held SpaceX business could be worth $50 billion in a public float.

Fortune also specifically highlights some major defence aerospace businesses as worth an investment, as well as established players such as SES and Boeing as well as the established ‘new age’ operators such as Facebook, Google and Amazon as likely beneficiaries.

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