Elon Musk ‘wins’ billionaire space race even after rocket failure

Elon Musk

It’s not every billionaire who sees his dream project literally burn up — at a cost of around $67 million — and thinks it’s an “exciting” start.

But shortly after SpaceX’s Starship rocket detonated after just four minutes in the sky on April 20, Elon Musk victoriously tweeted: “Congratulations @SpaceX team on an exciting Starship test launch! Learned a lot for the next test start in a few months.”

It can’t be anytime soon, especially with an anticipated FAA investigation.

“I would say three months is optimistic,” Douglas Messier, editor-in-chief of ParabolicArc, a website that covers commercial space, told The Post. “I think it will take longer.

“There was a problem with expectations. The initial plan was to crash Starship off the coast of Kauai after a 90-minute flight,” Messier added. “Elon lowered the expectations of getting off the launch pad and it did, but it didn’t pan out the way it was originally intended. Elon is very good at managing expectations.”

It’s just the latest setback in the once lofty race to create billionaires in space.

Even with Blue Origin, the idea of ​​Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, things didn’t go perfectly.

In September 2022, an unmanned New Shepard rocket launched – only for flames to erupt from the ground. The demolition system turned on and the capsule created for passengers landed by parachute.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk is set to win the multi-billion dollar space race despite a major stumble.

Elon Musk
When the rocket launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX exploded into the sky after four minutes, he was already prepared for another test launch.

There were no injuries and the problem was identified as a rocket engine overheating, but flights are currently grounded. It has been reported that Blue Origin “hopes to return to flight soon”.

There is also the question of money.

“Every program at Blue Origin is designed to bring in as much as it spends,” Eric Berger, author of “Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX,” told The Post. “That does not happen.”

Jeff Bezos in a Blue Origin space suit
Jeff Bezos has been slowed in his space quest after an aborted mission caused flights to be temporarily halted.
Blue Origin/Cover Images/

Earlier this month Richard Branson’s satellite launch company Virgin Orbit – a subsidiary of his space tourism company Virgin Galactic – went bankrupt after failing to secure funding.

“Branson is completely beside himself,” Berger said, referring to serious space exploration. “Honestly, he was never a great player. Virgin Galactic is a tourism company. Virgin Orbit spent a lot of money developing a rocket that had nowhere to go.”

At the beginning of the 21st century, Musk, Bezos and Branson expressed great ambitions to send rockets into space.

Richard Branson in a Virgin Galactic space suit
Richard Branson’s satellite company Virgin Orbit recently filed for bankruptcy.

In 2021, Bezos, now 59, and Branson, 72, were very publicly in a rush to see who could go to space first.

“Big egos are at play here,” Brad Stone, author of Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire, told The Post at the time. “They are [some] of the best-known entrepreneurs and all used to winning.”

Branson initially won the race by nine days. He flew 53 miles in the sky on July 11, 2021 with two pilots and three crew members in his Virgin Galactic VSS Unity, crossing the frontier of space recognized by the US as the frontier of space.

spaceship explodes
After four minutes of flight, Elon Musk’s spacecraft exploded in the sky earlier this month.

Bezos — no less cowboy-hatted — followed on July 20, but seemed to have the edge in the name game. In addition to pioneering aviator Wally Funk, who flew with Bezos on the first flight, Blue Origin later sent up celebs William Shatner and Michael Strahan. The vehicle traveled 62 miles and passed the Kármán Line, which the company described as “the internationally recognized frontier of space.”

A-listers reportedly waiting to fly Virgin include Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Katy Perry.

K-pop star TOP and DJ Steve Aoki, along with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, reportedly went to Mars with Musk and SpaceX.

But will any of them ever get off the ground?

Blue Origin capsule that plunges into the sea
A New Shepherd ship of the Blue Origin fleet crashed into the sea after a fiery and aborted launch.

Musk’s dream remains the most ambitious. He wants to colonize Mars.

Rand Simberg, a space technology consultant and author of “Safe is Not an Option,” says Musk’s wish is particularly high. “Getting to Mars is only part of the problem. how do you live there Nobody knows,” he said. “It takes a lot of technology not just to survive, but to thrive on another planet.”

Nonetheless, rocket world insiders say, Musk now appears to be winning the race to space — even after the launch failed.

Virgin orbit jet
Virgin Orbit was reportedly unable to secure funding for the sequel.

Bezos hasn’t put a serious rocket to the test, after all. And the partially bankrupt Branson has become a nil at this stage of the competition.

“Elon is a lot more motivated than Jeff,” Simberg said. “Jeff treated it as a hobby. Jeff was in no hurry. He made the tortoise and hare analogy [about him and Musk]. For now, Elon is winning. The rabbit is way ahead and you will not catch it.”

According to “Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days that Launched SpaceX” Eric Berger, “Bezos pours $1 billion a year into his company. They’re still working on New Glenn [a heavy-launch rocket]. It should hit the market in 2020. Now 2025 seems like a reasonable estimate. By then, however, SpaceX will have launched many rockets [all reusable, allowing for multiple launches per day]. Blue Origin is now behind. At that point, they will fall even further behind.”

William Shatner and Jeff Bezos
William Shatner was one of the famous names to rise – or plan to – rise with Blue Origin.

And Musk isn’t the only one seeing the upside in SpaceX’s recent flop.

“I thought the launch was a successful failure,” Berger told the Post. “They have good data on how the vehicle exits the truck bed. They flew for four minutes and got a lot of data there. It was successful. NASA couldn’t afford to fail publicly like that and learn from it. Congress would ask why they failed.”

While Musk dreams of colonizing Mars, Bezos has expressed a desire to build his own space colonies. In the long term, he anticipates “millions of people living and working in space.” Branson continues to harbor hopes for continued space tourism.

Jeff Bezos in a Blue Origin capsule
Bezos and Blue Origin intend to launch passengers into space again sometime this year.

In terms of its own space tourism, Blue Origin has had six successful flights. In addition to the celebs, 29 other passengers reportedly paid up to $28 million (via a ticket bought at auction) for the 10-minute flight. The last crewed venture in August 2022 reportedly received two seats for around $2.5 million.

“Some people will be nervous [to take the trip]’ Messier said in light of the aborted mission. “But I think they understand what went wrong and that this is a mature vehicle.”

Branson, who has only flown up the one tourist flight so far, had promising news on April 26.

Elon Musk raises his arms above his head in celebration
Musk’s dream remains the most ambitious as he wants to colonize Mars.

Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity, designed for suborbital operations, flew solo for the first time since 2021 and landed safely after nine minutes of flight.

According to Space News, Virgin Galactic will resume service later this year with members of the Italian Air Force.

“This is a deal they worked out with Italy to do microgravity experiments,” Messier said. “This is her first paid flight. The Italians pay.”

But, Messier added, it’s important that Branson get more civilians into space soon.

Richard Branson floats in a Virgin Galactic ship
Richard Branson’s space tourism company will next send a group of Italian Air Force passengers to the edge of space this year.
Virgo Galactic

“Then there are 800 people who paid in advance,” Messier said. “[Virgin] started selling tickets in 2005. At some point they have to deliver.”

Meanwhile, Musk has apparently made Bezos “absolutely jealous” with the contracts he brings to SpaceX from commercial and government customers who pay to launch satellites into space.

“Elon started SpaceX as a revenue-hungry company,” Berger said. “They put all the income into new projects.”

Still, Berger said Blue Origin shouldn’t be counted out just yet — partly because of Bezos’ true love of space. “He’s a huge fanboy,” Berger said. “He paid to have Saturn V rocket engines brought up from the Atlantic. Space is at his heart.”

Messier agrees but believes the real space race depends on whether or not the tortoise can actually catch up with the hare, as in the fable.

“When Bezos and Blue Origin finally get into space, there will be competition,” Messier said. “Right now, however, SpaceX is on its own. Its real competition is China. China looks at Musk and mimics what he is doing. They put a lot of money and a lot of prestige into their program. Musk doesn’t really compete with the other two billionaires right now. He is in competition with China.”

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