The Space Tourism Industry Is Ready for Takeoff
The race is on.
And as it is with so many other things, Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) is out in front… at least for now.
The online retail and web services giant’s founder and outgoing CEO, Jeff Bezos, is heading to space.
It’s a feat his competitors are likely envious of.
On July 20, Bezos and his brother, Mark, will launch 60 miles above Earth for approximately 11 minutes. It will be the first crewed flight of the New Shepard, the rocket built by his Blue Origin space company.
But don’t rush to call this the beginning of a new industry.
This is merely the continuation of a story that began more than two decades ago. And in this chapter, there are billions of dollars in pent-up demand that investors should be ready to tap into.
$1.4 Trillion Up for Grabs
In 1995, Bezos launched online bookseller Amazon with $250,000 from his parents.
In the decades since, it’s grown to be one of the largest companies in the world.
There are more than 200 million Amazon Prime members. Amazon Web Services is an essential for corporations. And Amazon owns the Whole Foods grocery chain, MGM Studios and the security company Ring. It also holds a stake in electric car company Rivian.
But Bezos believes his most important work is being done at Blue Origin.
He founded Blue Origin in 2000. And in 2017, Bezos said that he had been selling as much as $1 billion in Amazon stock each year to keep his passion project afloat.
But Blue Origin is just one of a growing number of private space companies. These have sprung up over the last couple of decades for very real reasons.
Part of it is monetary. Over the next decade, the global space industry will triple in size. That will catapult its value to roughly $1.4 trillion, up from $424 billion in 2019.
And the world’s brightest minds, like SpaceX founder Elon Musk and Virgin Galactic‘s (NYSE: SPCE) Sir Richard Branson, are racing to claim their stakes.
I’ve covered here how launching much-needed satellites into orbit is a big business. But the segment of space that’s about to capture the most attention has long been the most divisive.
Professionals Only, Please!
Bezos won’t be the first billionaire in space.
That distinction already went to software architect Charles Simonyi… who has been to space twice!
And that’s thanks to one company.
From 2001 to 2010, Virginia-based Space Adventures launched the world’s wealthiest people into orbit, even offering stays on the International Space Station.
On April 28, 2001, American engineer and entrepreneur Dennis Tito became the world’s first space tourist.
Tito paid $20 million to join the Russian Soyuz TM-32 mission. He spent a total of seven days, 22 hours and four minutes in space.
He orbited the Earth 128 times and helped launch a multibillion-dollar industry.
But the stiffs at NASA wanted nothing to do with it. To them, space was for professionals, not amateurs. They were publicly critical of Tito.
Space Adventures’ business was humming along, sending seven tourists to the space station and into orbit with ticket price tags in the tens of millions of dollars.
But it all came to a screeching halt when NASA retired the space shuttle.
With no domestic means to get back into space, NASA essentially purchased every available seat on the Soyuz missions from 2011 to 2020.
That meant there were no seats for the private market.
This lack of capacity is what helped fuel Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and others. The American space industry was pushed into privatization and commercialization. And now everyone gets to come out as a winner.
High-Flying High Rollers
You see, the rise of these companies has a twofold effect. It is easing capacity restraints on professional space travel and creating new avenues for space tourism.
In fact, in 2020, SpaceX and Space Adventures struck a deal to send tourists on the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
And last year, SpaceX became the first private company to send astronauts to the space station. It also oversaw the first crewed launch from American soil in nine years! (Since the space shuttle was retired.)
So Bezos isn’t the first space tourist… He isn’t even the first billionaire to go to space. His launch next month merely represents how the floodgates are about to open… So investors should sit up and take notice!
Just to name a few others…
Jared Isaacman, CEO of contactless payments solutions provider Shift4 Payments (NYSE: FOUR), will be the commander of the first all-civilian space mission this September.
Billionaire entrepreneur and art collector Yusaku Maezawa is scheduled to launch to the space station through Space Adventures in December. He will be the company’s eighth space tourist and will spend 12 days in space. Maezawa will also launch with SpaceX’s Starship in 2023.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has given a $5 million deposit to Space Adventures to head to the space station. But there’s no timetable for when.
Of course, Branson is scheduled to launch into space sometime later this year… though there are rumors he might step up that launch to beat Bezos into orbit.
And Bitcoin billionaires Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss plan to leave Earth aboard a Virgin Galactic ship in the future.
For perspective, Virgin Galactic believes its total addressable market is $900 billion, though its initial focus is on high net worth individuals. Near term, the space tourism market is projected to be worth $8 billion by 2030.
All of this means that one of the most exclusive clubs in the world will soon be open to the public. Only 569 people have ever traveled to space. Of those, a very select few have been tourists.
But those numbers are about to grow… And they represent one of the most exciting opportunities for adventure seekers and investors!
Here’s to high returns,
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