10 Major Players in the Private Sector Space Race
Just as globalization transformed the economic landscape for corporations and consumers, the new space race is redefining how people and cargo are lifted aloft. Gone is the (light)saber-rattling between two Cold War superpowers, supplanted by a global horse race in which countries and companies vie to win, place or show in the suborbital track.
The advent of privatized rockets and space stations opens up orbital access to nations, businesses and even people, provided they can afford the fees. Why risk economic and political capital on a costly, chancy and technically challenging space program when, for a relative pittance, you can flag down a space taxi, book lodging in a space station or secure cargo room for your satellite, experiment or instruments on a futuristic cargo van?
It's not a rhetorical question. With more than a dozen Russian launch problems in 2011, with the Obama administration's cancellation of the Ares I rocket, and with its replacement, the Space Launch System, becalmed in uncertain political waters, the former space superpowers have opened up a gap in the market that the commercial space sector is poised to fill.
The next decade may well be for the space race what the late 1990s and early 2000s were for the Internet: a time of uncertainty, ebullient creativity and, ultimately, economic reality -- a game of musical chairs in which contestants struggle to secure their seats before the venture capital runs out.
Dozens of companies are jockeying for position in the new space race. Read on to see our picks for who outclasses the field, who is coming strong in the turn and who has the best track record.