Many CEOs are known for exhibiting their million-dollar lifestyles; opulent car collections comprised of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Bentleys are common, whereas private Gulfstream jets are a bit more rare. However, while millionaires indulge themselves with these toys, billionaires have embraced an entirely new obsession. As technology becomes increasingly advanced, wealthy individuals can longer afford to be seen in personal helicopters and mega-mansions. No! Instead, they must do whatever it takes to remain at the pinnacle of social acceptance. Thus, some of America's most prominent entrepreneurs have decided to invest their wealth in space travel.
Amazon’s (AMZN) Jeff Bezos, Virgin America's (VA) Richard Branson, and Tesla’s (TSLA) Elon Musk have all founded, and funded, their own rocket companies; these include: Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX. The latest company to enter the new private space race is Bezos’ Blue Origin, which launched its first rocket in April. Designated “New Shepard,” Blue Origin's capsule is designed to carry six people more than 62 miles into space. However, Bezos' main focus appears to be experimental. Instead of leisure, Blue Origin will serve the scientific community for research purposes.
In contrast, Branson has taken a completely different approach to the billionaire space race (which isn't all too surprising). His company, Virgin Galactic, is centered around space tourism. Virgin has already tested, and sold tickets for, Virgin Galactic flights. A suborbital rocket, Branson's device imitates the feeling of being in space. Unfortunately, the commercial space ride isn’t cheap, nor is it (currently) entirely feasible. A seat on Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo costs $250,000, and while Branson is eager to launch his rockets, Virgin's program has encountered many setbacks from crashes and various other accidents.
While Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are impressive, many analysts believe that Elon Musks SpaceX is the most promising rocket company. Again, different from Bezos' and Branson's firms, SpaceX is a B2B service company that primarily assists NASA. SpaceX has recieved much praise for the success of its first rocket model, the Falcon 9. As a two-stage rocket, Musk's Falcon 9 generates 1000x more thrust than Bezos' New Shepard. As such, the Falcon 9 will also likely transport humans in the future. And while Blue Origin wants to create new, more powerful, rocket engines, such plans are years from completion. Hence, competition has created a new era of space exploration, yet the question remains: "who will be the victor?"