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  • T-minus 10, nine, eight, seven,

  • six, five, four, three, two, one--

  • The space race isn't just global superpowers

  • duking it out for bragging rights

  • and technological supremacy anymore.

  • Private companies, lots of them,

  • are rushing to commercialize not just the final frontier,

  • but the act of getting there.

  • I am a sports guy, this is like March Madness to me.

  • It's one and done, I got one shot to get to the end

  • or else I'm either gonna fail, run out of money,

  • or be gobbled up by someone else.

  • And whoever figures out

  • how to make launch safe, affordable,

  • and convenient is going to take the next giant leap.

  • We choose to go to the moon in this decade

  • and do the other things,

  • not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

  • 60 years into the space race,

  • the way we leave Earth has changed remarkably.

  • Zero, all engine running.

  • Liftoff, we have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour.

  • Space seemed like a vast, black desert,

  • but now we're ready to make the desert bloom.

  • I'm talking about opening space up to business,

  • to private enterprise.

  • Opening space up to commerce

  • and experimentation and development.

  • Why?

  • To improve the quality of life on Earth.

  • 25 years after Ronald Reagan

  • signed the Commercial Space Launch act,

  • the desert has begun blooming.

  • I think if you're a young person in 1969

  • and you saw people walking on the moon,

  • and 50 years later, we still haven't gone back,

  • I think that's a little disappointing.

  • I think they took that, their hopes and dreams

  • of their youth, and are applying it to today's marketplace.

  • And I think they're having a fantastic success.

  • In the world of rocket launch,

  • there are two very distinct races going on.

  • The first are the large rocket companies

  • like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Origin.

  • Jeff Bezos has reportedly invested billions

  • already in Blue Origin and will invest billions more.

  • Liftoff.

  • SpaceX has also raised billions of dollars

  • and acquired very large contracts from NASA as well,

  • in order to fund both development and operations

  • of its vehicles.

  • Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket.

  • But they aren't the only players in the game.

  • There's a heated race picking up

  • between small and medium launch companies.

  • There's a subset of the community

  • not named SpaceX, not named Blue Origin,

  • trying to figure out, okay, how we get there fast?

  • Companies like Rocket Lab,

  • Relativity, Firefly, and Virgin Orbit.

  • Right now, there are more than 100 small launch companies

  • competing not just to get to space,

  • but to see who can get there most reliably,

  • cheapest, and then repeat it over and over and over again.

  • And ideally, end up with their business in the black.

  • Because in time, new industries rely

  • on these launch companies getting payloads into orbit.

  • And any missteps can spell disaster.

  • Not just for a rocket, but an entire company.

  • There is a $200+ billion commercial space industry

  • right now today.

  • There are a couple of huge markets

  • that have been very profitable.

  • The most profitable is the satellite industry.

  • In 2018, the global space economy was estimated

  • to be around $360 billion.

  • $277 billion of that is the satellite industry,

  • which has actually grown over $100 billion

  • over the past decade.

  • And for those satellites to get to space,

  • they need to be launched on a rocket.

  • Global launches in 2018 increased by 46%

  • over the number of launches a decade ago.

  • In many respects, it's never been easier

  • to put a satellite into space,

  • in terms of the cost and the availability of rockets

  • to ride into orbit.

  • And a new era of smaller, cheaper satellite technology

  • is creating this boom.

  • Once a year,

  • out in a desert north Utah,

  • the Small Satellite or SmallSat Conference, comes to Logan.

  • It has all the trademark features of an industry trade show,

  • bright lanyards, tons of swag,

  • but the deals happening here are carving out

  • what the future of the space economy will look like.

  • I've been coming to this conference for 20 years

  • and seen it grow from 300 people to over 3,000.

  • So, it is exciting to see that transition

  • as we move into the next phase.

  • Traditional satellites are often

  • powerful behemoths, the size of school buses,

  • costing hundreds of millions,

  • if not billions of dollars to build.

  • Today, the proliferation of smallsats,

  • CubeSats, even nanosats,

  • can cost as little as $10,000,

  • and can be built with similar hardware

  • that goes into your cell phone.

  • They range from the size of a Rubik's Cube

  • up to about the size of a dorm room refrigerator.

  • And so that's a big difference.

  • And so, some of these launch ventures

  • want to launch a few dorm-size refrigerators,

  • and others want to launch dozens of CubeSats.

  • And so, they're trying to divide the market that way.

  • Those satellites are providing imaging of the Earth,

  • they're potentially providing telecommunications services,

  • and they're attracting quite a lot of investment

  • in 10s, hundreds of millions of dollars,

  • even billions of dollars.

  • The Earth's insatiable need for communications

  • and internet is really what's driving

  • this huge number of satellites that are going into orbit

  • in the next five to seven years.

  • There's gonna be thousands, if not 10s of thousands

  • of new satellites in orbit in the next five to seven years.

  • The question is, are they able to actually provide

  • business services that will be successful?

  • The idea is that entirely new

  • business models as well as revenue streams

  • will be propped up by the data these smallsats collect.

  • The imaging and data collected from these smallsats

  • will be used by everyone,

  • from hedge funds to telecom giants to the US government.

  • Just think of how much the photos you can get

  • with your Android or iPhone have improved

  • from the first generation to the current generation.

  • Similar things happening in smallsats.

  • Market research says smallsat manufacturing

  • will nearly double by 2020,

  • with nearly 8,000 new smallsats in space by 2026.

  • The issue is always, small satellites have

  • a lot of capability, but there's not a good,

  • affordable way to get them into orbit.

  • And that's where the small launch companies

  • see a promising business.

  • The fact that a small launch vehicle

  • is much cheaper in total than a large launch vehicle

  • on the order of five or $10 million,

  • as opposed to $50 to $100 million,

  • and there are more customers.

  • Say you have a smallsat

  • that you want to launch into orbit.

  • Think of the big companies like SpaceX as a bus,

  • and the small and medium launch companies

  • like Rocket Lab as a taxi.

  • With large launches, you're at the back of the bus,

  • after the needs of what's called the primary,

  • which is the main payload on the rocket,

  • like a big government satellite.

  • Your smallsat is just piggybacking off that primary

  • since they bought the majority of the rocket.

  • With small launchers like Rocket Lab,

  • you and your smallsat can dictate

  • more of your terms on when and how you'll fly.

  • And you'll pay for the whole ride.

  • So booking a taxi for a smallsat

  • gives you more flexibility about when

  • and exactly where you want to go into orbit.

  • But it's more expensive.

  • Sometimes a ride share on a big rocket

  • and the chance to save on your launch expense

  • is more suitable depending on the satellite,

  • its mission, and the budget.

  • Far more important is the orbital inclination

  • or the angle of the satellite's orbit

  • relative to the equator.

  • It's much easier to move a satellite

  • into a higher or lower orbit than to change its inclination.

  • And that's why all launch customers

  • have to decide how their mission priorities

  • and budget can align when choosing how to get to space.

  • It's getting to the point that hitching a ride

  • on the really big rockets,

  • it works for some people,

  • it doesn't work for all business cases.

  • And so you've got smallsat ventures that say,

  • we want our own rides.

  • Those customers will determine

  • which of these small rocket companies succeeds

  • and which of the companies will fail.

  • This is not the internet,

  • where you build up a huge userbase

  • and then you figure out how to monetize them later.

  • Launch doesn't work that way.

  • You've gotta built up a backlog of customers.

  • Out of the more than 120 small

  • and medium-size launch companies out there,

  • just one is successfully launching rockets

  • for customers right now.

  • And that is Rocket lab.

  • People can actually walk on up to us and we'll fly them.

  • That's a great competitive advantage to have over,

  • you know, folks that are still developing a vehicle.

  • Peter Beck's Rocket Lab has raised

  • over $280 million from outsider investors,

  • with a valuation of more than one billion dollars,

  • and is currently flying a rocket every 30 days.

  • It looked what the hardest thing to do

  • was to go from zero to first successful orbital flight.

  • But really, going from first successful orbital flight

  • through to producing one every month

  • has been an equal amount of stress and energy

  • and complexity and toughness.

  • We obviously, we've completed our test flights,

  • and moved into full commercial operations

  • with the first flight of its business time.

  • And then straight on the heels of that,

  • we flew our NASA mission, and now we're, you know,

  • we're building and launching one vehicle

  • every sort of 30 days, every month.

  • And while other rocket companies

  • are looking to build their customer base,

  • Rocket Lab can't meet the rising demand for launches.

  • Our biggest issue is we can't broaden out profits.

  • That is our challenge.

  • We've built four and a half acres of new factories

  • and, you know, we're pushing in every direction we can

  • to build more capacity.

  • We fear that there aren't, you know,

  • we are the only dedicated solution available

  • on the marketplace right now.

  • You know, at an affordable price.

  • And so, what we see, a tremendous amount of demand.

  • So the demand is there, that's not the issue.

  • The issue is figuring out how to provide reliability,

  • scale, and cadence, while keeping prices as low as possible.

  • And each company has its own approach.

  • Every company has a unique way to building their rocket.

  • You know, whether they're using liquid,

  • solids, fuels, or a combination of the two.

  • Whether they're 3D printing their stages,

  • everyone has their unique approach to getting to a rocket.

  • However, the bottom line is good business in space

  • is exactly like good business on Earth.

  • A focus on customers, incremental successes,

  • and a vision that's supported by a real business model

  • is what works in space, just as it works on Earth.

  • One of the companies who believes