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Meet 6 Companies Challenging SpaceX in the Galactic Startup Race

Think Galactic

SpaceX’s successful launch of the Falcon Heavy on February 6 looks like a game-changer – a private company founded in 2002 managed to send a heavy payload into deep space with barely a hiccup.

But SpaceX isn’t the only game in town when it comes to private enterprise’s moves into the final frontier.

Meet 6 startups that are also trying to win the new space race.

Blue Origin

There’s another superstar in the Space space – you’ve likely heard of Blue Origin’s founder, Jeff Bezos (he and Musk have even engaged in a passive-aggressive war of words on Twitter). Blue Origin is also successfully developing reusable rockets with the aim of one-day ferrying humanity into space, for tourism and eventual colonization. In 2017, Bezos announced he was selling around $1 billion in Amazon stock to finance the enterprise.

Virgin Galactic

Long-time aeronautics enthusiast Richard Branson is another titan of industry trying to bring tourists into the upper atmosphere and beyond, with Virgin Galactic. Since 2008, Branson has promised that initial flights would take place “within two years”, but that timeline continues to look unlikely.

Planetary Resources

Asteroid mining has long featured in science fiction; it was only a matter of time before private enterprise tried to make it real. Planetary Resources intends to build a robotically-operated asteroid mining enterprise. The Washington-state company has launched two satellites that will survey Earth’s orbit for likely candidates.

Moon Express

With a name that sounds more like a fast-food option, Moon Express could prove just as dangerous as that deep-fried food. Founded in 2010, the company plans to mine the Moon for rare-earth elements with Avatar-like names (think yttrium and dysprosium).

United Launch Alliance

Less a startup than a collaboration between two aerospace giants, United Launch Alliance is a joint venture from Lockheed Martin and Boeing Defense, Space & Security. The 12-year-old company largely contracts with the Department of Defense and NASA, although SpaceX has challenged their costs and alleged market monopoly.

Planet Labs

San Francisco’s Planet Labs designs and manufactures miniaturized satellites that continuously scan the Earth, provided incredibly high-resolution imagery that can be used for climate forecasting, disaster relief, and more.

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