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Investment in space companies bounced back in the third quarter from the COVID-19 lull, report says


A Falcon rocket launches a Starlink mission in October 2020.

SpaceX

Private funding into space companies in the third quarter of 2020 bounced back after a major dip in the prior quarter, based on a report Thursday by NYC-based agency Space Capital.

“After the slowest quarter on record for [space infrastructure] investment since 2009, investment in this layer of the stack rebounded in Q3 to pre-COVID levels,” Space Capital managing associate Chad Anderson wrote in the report. “With just three quarters booked, 2020 is already the largest year on record for infrastructure investment with $5.5 billion invested [this year].”

The quarterly Space Capital report divides funding in the trade into three know-how layers, with space infrastructure together with what many would usually think about to be space companies: Those which construct rockets, satellites, spacecraft, space exploration tasks and extra. The report discovered that space infrastructure companies introduced in $3.6 billion throughout the third quarter, the largest single quarter of funding on file. More than half that funding got here by way of SpaceX’s about $2 billion elevate in August.

An funding freeze as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic was seen as a severe danger by space companies earlier this yr. But executives from companies akin to Sierra Nevada Corporation, Virgin Galactic, Relativity Space and Virgin Orbit have just lately instructed CNBC about the progress every have made in spite of the pandemic, whereas companies like Kymeta, ICEYE and Astroscale have efficiently closed new fundraising.

The space software and distribution layers additionally introduced in $1.2 billion and $102 million, respectively. That represents slower progress than the earlier quarters, when each layers introduced in the bulk of this yr’s space funding. Despite the slower progress, the distribution layer has seen even the largest U.S. tech companies be part of in – akin to Microsoft’s Azure Orbital satellite tv for pc service, which seeks to compete with Amazon’s AWS Ground Station service.

“The increased involvement of these tech companies will service as yet another catalyst for growth in this sector,” Anderson wrote. “In the same way that every company today is a technology company, the companies of tomorrow will be space companies.”

NASA doles out over $370 million in space tech awards

Space Capital’s newest quarterly report comes a day after NASA awarded greater than $370 million in fastened worth contracts to 14 companies to develop varied space applied sciences. Although the NASA contracts technically come in the fourth quarter, and wouldn’t be counted underneath Space Capital’s funding standards, the awards characterize the U.S. space company’s continued help for a rising subject of companies.

SpaceX’s prototype Starship launches in a brief first flight take a look at at the firm’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX

The awards have been made underneath NASA’s Tipping Point program, which seeks to fund new applied sciences. Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance received contracts value $89.7 million, $53.2 million and $86.2 million, respectively, to conduct demonstrations of latest cryogenic gasoline transfers and storage. Small rocket builder Rocket Lab will launch an illustration mission for Eta Space, which received $27 million for a small-scale orbital flight demo of a cryogenic fluid administration system. Multiple awards for lunar lander applied sciences have been awarded, together with $41.6 million to Intuitive Machines, $10 million to Masten Space Systems, and $5.eight million to Astrobotic.

“Tipping Point is a fantastic program designed to significantly mature a technology for use in commercial space applications. These are not R&D projects that are going to get filed away in a basement and collect dust. These awards give next generation technologies the capital they need to reach their next milestones and get one giant leap closer to commercial use,” Anderson instructed CNBC.

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