2014 Year in Review: Commercial Space Investing Hits Its Stride

December 29, 2014
Author
Chad Anderson
December 29, 2014
Author
Chad Anderson

Network Highlights:

2014 was a year of accomplishment for Space Angels Network. Our membership grew significantly, as did our pipeline of quality deal flow. We forged meaningful partnerships that will enhance our reach and strengthen our ability to encourage private investment in commercial space ventures. Here are some of the highlights:

Dealflow:

Over 100 companies applied to Space Angels Network, 20 of which passed our initial screening process and were featured in Deal Alerts, resulting in four investments – bringing the total number of space companies founded or funded by our members to 22. This year Space Angels Network members backed truly game-changing ventures that include launch providers, human spaceflight, and asteroid mining companies.

Global Reach:

We added 29 new members this year, bringing our total membership to 56 individual angel investors, in nine different countries, on four different continents. This year we also established Network Hubs in four new countries on three new continents including: New York City, Stockholm, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Hong Kong. We are truly the largest collection of space entrepreneurs and investors in the world.

Events:

This year featured the inaugural Space Angels Network Members’ Expedition. The expedition to Southern California space companies offered unique insights inside the private space industry and gave our members across the globe the opportunity to come together and discuss space investing in person.

Space Angels Network actively participated in a number of industry events as well:

Incubation: Since 2009, Space Angels Network has supported the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace Business Plan Competition. And this year we continued to provide judges and support for the event. The Network was also a mentor and participating sponsored of Space Startup Weekend at the Rainbow Mansion in San Francisco.

Education: Space Angels Network also supported UKSEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space) with their National Student Space Conference in Leicester (outside London). The Network also presented career opportunities in the private space sector to business students at the University of Oxford.

Experience: At Stanford University, Space Angels Network moderated a panel of high-profile satellite startups including Skybox Imaging, Planet Labs, Spire, SpaceKnow, and Digital Globe (not really a startup), in a discussion about the changing landscape of data from orbit.

Media Coverage:

The Space Angels Network management team is at the forefront of the private spaceflight dialogue, and in 2014 continued to contribute meaningfully to the conversation. Here are a few of our media highlights for 2014:

Stronger Together:

Through partnership and sponsorship with other industry experts, Space Angels Network aims to accelerate the growth of the emerging private space economy, by promoting entrepreneurial activity and encouraging private investment in commercial space ventures. This year Space Angels Network renewed a long-time partnership with Space Foundation, while forging new partnerships with the Delta-V space incubator in Sydney and Space Travel Alliance in Stockholm. We are also very proud to welcome our new sponsors: CASISSpace-NestHabif, Arogeti & Wynne, and Teachers-in-Space.

Industry Highlights:

The private space industry had an incredible year, marked by demonstrated agility and resilience, sustained levels of private investment, and increased reliance by NASA and other government agencies. The industry has grown considerably over the past two years and has reached a tipping point. Space Angels Network has been at the nexus of the emerging private space economy since 2006 and has positioned itself to be a key driver in the future growth of the sector.

Continued Investment:

This year saw a sustained level of private investment in commercial space ventures. For the third year in a row, private space companies raised over $300 million from private investors (excluding acquisitions and public offerings). The key market verticals that attracted the most funding were Launch Providers, Satellites, Space Resources, and Human Spaceflight, with angel/individual investors contributing slightly more than half of the total, and private equity/venture capital making up another 30%.

This year also saw the landmark acquisition of Skybox Imaging by Google for $500 million, which could signal the beginning of a maturing M&A market led by a company with significant resources and interest in the space sector: sponsoring the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize, investing in satellite communications provider O3B, leasing the Moffett Field Hangar from NASA for $1 billion over 60 years through its subsidiary Planetary Ventures, and recently announcing its plans to launch over 600 small communications satellites.

Agility & Resilience:

Late this year, two unfortunate incidents highlighted the agility and resilience of private space companies: Planet Labs built, tested, and had two new satellites ready for launch just nine days after their Flock 1d was lost on the Antares explosion. According to a CNN interview with CEO George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Series 2 is 90% structurally complete after losing SpaceShipTwo in November, and the company plans to resume flight tests in spring.

NASA Embraces Private Sector Partners:

NASA uses Space Act Agreements as the primary vehicle for partnering with commercial companies. While established in 1958, the way in which NASA engages with the private sector has changed considerably. Another promising development in 2014 was NASA’s increased engagement with emerging space and reliance on private partners, forging the new space economy together (REPORT). In line with this trend, NASA has rebranded for the new space age, with a focus on Mars and the commercial partnerships that will enable us to get there.

Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS): The COTS program aimed to address the shortfall in ISS logistics after the retirement of the Space Shuttle. NASA’s Final Report on the COTS program (released this year) considers it an unqualified success and a model for future public-private collaboration. Compared to traditional costs-plus contracts employed by NASA the unprecedented efficiency of the $800 million COTS investment resulted in “two new U.S. medium-class launch vehicles and two automated cargo spacecraft”.

Commercial Crew Development (CCDev): Arguably the most important near-term program under NASA’s stewardship, the Commercial Crew drive is aimed at returning crewed space transportation to the United States. This year NASA downselected to just two commercial crew options, with Boeing and SpaceX splitting $6 billion.

CATALYST: With the recent retirement of NASA’s landers (Mighty Eagle and Morpheus), the purpose of these SAAs is to encourage the development of robotic lunar landers that can be integrated with U.S. commercial launch capabilities to deliver payloads to the lunar surface. Private companies will benefit from NASA’s deep expertise in developing this technology. Astrobotic is one of three companies to win a CATALYST SAA and is currently in due diligence conversations with our network.

Other SAAs with Bigelow Aerospace, Final Frontier Design (Space Angels Network pipeline company), and other commercial companies are intended to build the ability for humans to travel, live, and work in space through expandable habitat technology and re-entry space suits for orbital spaceflight.

One commercial partner that is particularly worth mentioning this year is Made In Space due to their historic achievement and revolution in space access. The Zero-G Printer is the first 3D printer designed to operate in zero gravity. Launched into orbit this year, the printer was built under a joint partnership between NASA and Made In Space. Contracted as the “3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment,” this first version of the Zero-G printer has ushered in the era of off-world manufacturing.

Looking Ahead:

With all that’s happened in 2014, next year looks to be even better. To start the year off in January, SpaceX will attempt “Mission Improbable”: attempting the precision landing of a Falcon 9 first stage, on a custom-built ocean platform known as the autonomous spaceport drone ship. With that kind of a start, we can’t wait to find out what else 2015 has in store.

The private space industry is still in its infancy, and is just beginning to realize its astronomical potential. With the largest community of space investors and entrepreneurs, Space Angels Network will continue to play an important role in the emerging space economy. In 2015 we will leverage our position at the nexus of the emerging private space race and increasingly participate in the inflection point that is at hand. We have ambitious plans for the upcoming year, which include a relationship-building initiative with academic and industry incubators to more proactively identify the best space-related deal flow. We have outlined plans to facilitate increased interaction between members and streamline the application process for our growing pipeline of entrepreneurs. Planning is also well underway for our next Members’ Expedition, which will feature a new hub of commercial space activity. Thank you for being an integral part of the organization, and here’s to a great 2015!

There’s never been a better time to get involved in commercial space. If you’re ready to start investing in private space companies, we invite you to apply for membership to Space Angels.

Ad Astra.

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