SpaceX to raise another billion in private investment capital


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On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
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Capitalism in space: SpaceX is now in the process of raising another billion dollars in private investment capital in order to fund both its Starlink and Starship projects.

Space Exploration Technologies, Elon Musk’s reusable rocket venture, is in talks to raise $1 billion in series N funding at a valuation of $44 billion, according to documents reviewed by CNBC. SpaceX plans to use the funding to make its Starlink satellite broadband service operational, and to conduct suborbital and orbital test flights of its Starship and SuperHeavy booster launch vehicle.

Up to now SpaceX has raised just under $2 billion in private capital, which they had said was devoted solely to developing Starship. The company had also said that it was developing Starlink with in-house funds. It appears that — having gotten almost 400 satellites in orbit (with many more coming) — they are now willing to seek outside help to make the Starlink system operational, because this situation allows SpaceX to negotiate the best deal with any investor.

It must also be emphasized that SpaceX is developing Starship/Super Heavy entirely from private funds, not government subsidies. This lack of government funds also means a lack of government oversight, which gives SpaceX complete freedom during development. Government oversight would only slow things down and likely prevent the company from innovating.

Instead, it is free to build the first completely reuseable rocket that also happens to be as powerful as a Saturn 5. And it will do it for less total than NASA has and will spend each year on SLS, for more than twenty years.

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21 comments

  • Stephen Richter

    is it feasible for Spacex to deploy something in Earth orbit that would deflex or block sunlight from our planet? The international community would pay billions to have the ability to adjust how much solar radiation reaches the Earth.

  • Stephen Richter

    How much sharing of technology is taking place among SpaceX and other rocket companies? Computer software companies have prospered considerably from the open source movement. Has SpaceX open sourced the software and hardware that enables it to reuse its rockets? Maybe its competitors would benefit from agreeing to open source and sharing all of their collective technology.

  • janyuary

    Robert — Space, the ultimate frontier (!) inspires optimism by its very nature and your reports nourish it. So COOL! A year ago, I’d have read this and been concerned about all that stuff in space, thinking it would be an issue to be addressed inevitably …

    … then I heard you spreading the word on the wonderfulness of capitalism. You pointed out what seems obvious once you did (!), that those private companies wanting to go into space, will quickly clean up and remove space junk because it will be in their own interests. My stars it was so good to hear … of course only on Kook2Kook (my very affectionate name for a favorite radio show that’s often days ahead of the curve and far more informative than any other medium that makes the claim, radio or image-word based).

    Anyway, I am sure loving this place. God bless and keep you cool and free there in AZ!

  • Stephen Richter: SpaceX shares nothing with their competitors, for good reasons. It paid for the research to develop what it has. Why should its competitors get that knowledge for free?

    I also guarantee that the people who have invested billions in SpaceX would be very upset if SpaceX started to give its products away for free. How would they make money on that development then? They wouldn’t.

    Your question suggests you need to educate yourself about private property rights, private enterprise, and the basic tenets of capitalism. It made the U.S. the most prosperous ever in the history of the human race.

  • janyuary

    Robert, there you go again! WELL SAID!

    People are conditioned to living in an artificially designed world, planned by others rather than growing organically. True capitalism would put a corner grocery and meat market, or a little gas station, on neighborhood corners here and there where needed. Now municipal “community” planning places all the big-box grocery stores in centralized locations miles away from most neighborhoods, and harsh, expensive permits, restrictions, and regulations make it impossible or else a losing proposition for a small corner grocery or gas station to spring up in any place except where planners plan for it to be. People who grow up in that sometimes fail to perceive that it IS POSSIBLE to live quite happily and well with ZERO planning, all spontaneous. They have never seen it in practice, so they have a hard time embracing it.

    Mostly, though, an arrogant mindset grips much of the left and far too many on the right, that because his/her way is “better/smarter/more moral” than entrepreneurs and businessmen, he/she gets to boss them around. Same thing with the masks and social distance, forced on me by people who think they’re smarter than me so they have a right to boss me around.

    They dangerously wrong; it is at the crux of all of this, antithetical to the always-faithful Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The bossy arrogant mindset would certainly complain if businessmen, on pretense of morally better or smarter, decided to boss individuals around because they were too stupid to do what was best for everybody.

    Free enterprise, capitalism, precludes its even being possible because no one is forced to consume or buy anything. Live and let live in American Constitution style liberty. The arrogant mindset thinks “live and let live” cannot work, that someone must be in charge of “stupid” people! OUCH!!!

  • janyuary

    Stephen, if you are reading this … that’s a good question about deflecting or blocking sunlight. I hope Robert replies, as I’m curious if he’s heard of such a thing being considered. Stay well.

  • I can think of no rational reason to block the sunlight that reaches the Earth. None. Nor is SpaceX working to do it, as its goals are aimed at profit and the exploration of space. Blocking sunlight from reaching Earth would only cause death and destruction, neither of which would fulfill those goals.

    And if you think we need to do this because of global warming, you need to educate yourself a bit on that subject. Even if we assume that the climate is warming (which I still consider an unproven theory), that does not mean we will suffer for it. If anything, it will increase crop yields and make more land habitable at higher latitudes. A win-win.

  • janyuary

    Robert, thank you for the answer. Personally, I think we are along for the ride on Planet Earth, that we have it backward. Actually, the climate controls us, so much that some people evolved very dark skin, long lean bodies, and broad noses for better survival in hot sun climates, while others evolved high narrow brides to the nose to warm cold air before reaching the lungs, dense blond hair for warmth, and pale skin the better to capture healthy UV rays when available in cold dark climes.

    It is an interesting thing to consider, though, that maniacs who believe mankind has any idea whatsover how to even identify a significant climate shift in action, let alone what to do about it, could be dangerous … but then again, aren’t they always?

    Thanks again for the answer to Stephen’s first question.

  • Ray Van Dune

    “The international community would pay billions to have the ability to adjust how much solar radiation reaches the Earth.”

    Oh, I’ll just bet they would! And children playing with matches would love to get hold of the keys to a fireworks warehouse! What could possibly go wrong?

  • sippin_bourbon

    When I hear suggestions of how we could alter the atmosphere or set up ways to “shade the Earth” in the name of climate change, it terrifies me that people with such hubris would put us all at risk.

  • Edward

    It looks like SpaceX is going through money at quite a rate, on Starship. They seem to have gone through half a billion dollars so far this year. They are building lots of facilities and test articles.

    sippin_bourbon,
    Keep in mind that the next glacial period of the Ice Age is due any millennium, which is farther away than we were being told half a century ago. Soon, warming the planet may become more important than cooling it. (Oh! This is what being a Chicken Little must feel like.)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ice_Age_Temperature.png

  • Max

    Edward, that’s a scary graph. According to the record we should be beginning a new Ice Age soon.

    Stephen;
    Does the billions of tons of mass orbiting Saturn (as beautiful rings that you can see even with the small telescope) reduce the temperature of Saturn? (10 times as far from the sun as we are)
    It’s only 21,000°F near its core, that’s twice as hot as the 9500° F surface of the sun. Saturn emits 2 1/2 times more heat than it receives from the sun.

    Even if you could spend 1000 years digging the surface of the moon and putting it in earths orbit it would not reduce the temperature by much. (it would make satellites and space travel impossible, and blocking sunlight necessary for photosynthesis possibly killing most of the plant life on earth)
    Eventually, what dirt doesn’t fall to earth will end up in rings like Saturn. Having almost no effect on earth heating mechanism.

    To give you an extreme example of the effect the sun has, Antarctica has near six months of no sun during its winter. The temperature at the south pole averages 70° below zero Fahrenheit.
    During Antarcticas summer, it receives three months of continuous sunlight. The sun circles the sky never setting. (It’s the same sun that you see at your house every day)
    After a couple of months, does Antarctica become the hottest place on earth? Why not?
    The south pole averages -40°F during it’s summer… An increase of 30° The entire continent virtually never gets above freezing.

    Intuitive assumptions are rarely right. Even though they sound really good… That’s why global warming Science is not science at all but a heartfelt religion based upon belief/faith and not the data.

  • Steve Richter

    in regard to blocking the sun, asking if that is workable. Whether it is necessary to cool the Earth or not, would still be a huge money earner for the rocket business.

  • Steve Richter

    Bob,

    you said: “… SpaceX shares nothing with their competitors, for good reasons. It paid for the research to develop what it has. Why should its competitors get that knowledge for free? …”

    It would share what it has in order to benefit from what other companies have developed and themselves shared. Look at the computer software business. All of Linux is open source. So are the browsers. Javascript, node.js has benefited greatly from being open source and collaborative. Microsoft paid $7.5 billion for Github, an open source collaboration company.

    Just pointing this out as an example of very competitive companies, succeeding and growing while also making the technology they develop available to others.

  • Jay

    Steve,
    I think you are comparing apples to oranges here. SpaceX is not a software company, it makes something physical. Yes, I know there is software in the rocket, try to find anything without a microprocessor now a days. I have worked in R&D on firmware/software. Yes I am aware of open source code and the many users groups that support it.
    Guess what? Some of those guys take that code, tweak it, copyright it, sometimes patent an algorithm, make a company and put it on the market. These open source groups are usually just users of an operating system, like the different flavors of Linux, or a program, that want a certain feature in it.
    An open source rocket could not be developed unless users put up a lot of cash and resources in. Without large sums of capital to functionally test the ideas, buy the materials, and it would take years for a rocket to launch. Most likely those users would burn out over time and nothing would be produced. Remember, they are not being paid.

    What would be the benefit of SpaceX giving away their secrets? Other companies and countries would copy their designs in a New York-Minute and SpaceX would be out of business in five years.

  • janyuary

    Jay, Max, etc: Great comments, spot on …

    Steve: INSTEAD of trying to manipulate the world’s climate as it moves into an Ice Age or Warming Phase, how about adapting to the weather as every living thing on earth has had to do since day one? Places that are warmish year-round now, would be places where folks might freeze to death. Land that is inhabited now, may be underwater in another age — 120,000 years ago, about 40% of what is now inhabited land in Florida, was underwater. And it will be again someday, no matter what we do. Trying to measure significant climate change from data that reaches back a mere 10,000 years, is like trying to extrapolate the plot of “Gone with the Wind” by viewing a nanosecond of film. It is the ultimate HUBRIS, sippin’ bourbon nailed it.

    An interesting read is Al Gore’s “Earth in the Balance.” I read it twice. Unfortunately for Al, I’d just come off a two-year binge of paleontology and geology reading. In a sane world, Gore’s book would have instantly been hailed as an example of VERY BAD “SCIENCE” with numerous falsehoods, and of the worst kind of journalism as well.

    I maintain we’re along for the ride on this ol’ earth! Gore’s just one of the dimmer passengers …!!

  • Ian C.

    Steve,

    Re blocking sunlight, that kind of climate or geoengineering would be politically controversial and prior studies indicate high costs and years to build and deploy. Similar to solar power satellites. SpaceX (and others) could deliver the payload to an appropriate orbit (from where the sunshades would move to their final positions), but I doubt that this would be a viable business model for now.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_radiation_management#Space-based

    Re tech sharing, most of the tech SpaceX develops is covered by ITAR etc. and cannot be released into the open. They could only share under secrecy agreements with allowed/selected partners.
    SpaceX has a tradition of developing as much as possible inhouse, AFAIK they don’t even patent their stuff because that would put things into the open (and freedom’s enemies would just use it with disregard to any IP law). Instead they intend to innovate so fast that they’d be miles ahead while others–after having reverse engineered SpaceX’s tech–would be left with yesterday’s stuff. Considering the need for export control and business secrets, I don’t see the open source model working for launch service providers.

    That being said, there exist space-oriented open source projects, but most are for either space science (can be useful) or applications like ground control and such (often tailored to specific mission profiles). The DIY space community (e.g. CubeSat) has more hardware and software openness (esp. since export control often doesn’t apply there anymore), so perhaps start looking there if you’re interested. NASA and ESA have open source repositories as well and sometimes fund FOSS development.

  • Steve Richter

    thanks for the link Ian. The Fresnel lens idea proposed by Gregory Benford was very interesting to read about.

    “… In 2004, physicist and science fiction author Gregory Benford calculated that a concave rotating Fresnel lens 1000 kilometres across, yet only a few millimeters thick, floating in space at the L1 point, would reduce the solar energy reaching the Earth by approximately 0.5% to 1%. He estimated that this would cost around US$10 billion up front, and another $10 billion in supportive cost during its lifespan.[77] One issue with implementing such a solution is the need to counteract the effects of the solar wind moving such megastructures out of position. …”

    The radiation that leaves the Sun and then shines on the Earth, that radiation would be emitted primarily from the same location on the Sun. ( which assumes that radiation leaves the Sun on a path perpendicular to the surface ). Anyway, just thinking that the closer a shield is brought to the Sun, the more radiation would be blocked from shining on the Earth.

  • Drake

    Another reason SpaceX won’t “open source” its space rocket technology: ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations).

    It is quite restrictive with dual-use technologies.

  • commodude

    With enough palms sufficiently greased, ITAR means nothing, just ask LORAL.

  • pzatchok

    As for shading the Earth.

    I think some pf you have forgotten that we do not have to shade very much of the Earth in order to make a noticeable effect.

    Half of the Earth is already in shadow all the time right now. The dark side.

    We just have to add a sliver of shadow to the day side. Essentially adding an hour or so to the darkness.

    But if we cut down on Photosynthesis we actually add to the atmospheric CO2. Plants actually give off CO2 in the dark.

    So in order to decrease free CO2 in the air we need to grow more plants by adding hours to the light side.

    Global warming is cause by the intensity and amount of light hitting the Earth and the stuff in our atmosphere that keeps in the heat.

    And that brings up another question from me.
    If CO2 in the atmosphere keeps heat in why doesn’t it keep the very same amount out? Blankets work in both directions.

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