Space -- the final frontier -- offers more than a few opportunities for the exploring investor. Moon rockets and space stations don't come cheap, and space was once the exclusive domain of national governments. But public and private companies are now involved in satellites, research, mining, communications and space tourism. The space business has branched into several distinct sectors, with hundreds of companies involved, and has even developed its own market index and specialized research sources.
The private sector has been building components for the space program for decades. Boeing, for example, built the Saturn V rocket that brought the Apollo astronauts to the moon. Lockheed, Northrop and Grumman all have contributed satellites, rocket engines, instruments and other gear from contracts awarded by various agencies of the federal government, including NASA, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense. But for these companies, space contracts represent only a small portion of total revenue, and investors who wish to focus exclusively on "pure play" space investment must turn elsewhere.
Before investment comes research; fortunately, investors in space exploration and commerce have at least one comprehensive source in NewSpace Global. This research company covers all aspects of the space business, and offers subscription newsletters and "deep dive" research on companies both public and private. NewSpace Global advises universities, government agencies, hedge funds and venture capital firms on the current state of the space business, and created the first market index of space companies, known as the NSG 100.
The futurist's dream of space tourism may become a commercial reality for Virgin Galactic, which by late 2013 had already booked more than 600 reservations (at $250,000 each) by amateur astronauts hoping for a pleasure ride into space. The company has also made plans for regular commercial flights, using suborbital flights to drastically cut flying time between distant cities such as London and Sydney. Virgin Galactic is a relatively small division of the Virgin Group, a private conglomerate. Investors with an interest in space tourism, and interested in future IPOs, can also look at several private businesses including Bigelow Aerospace, Blue Origin, Interorbital Systems, PlanetSpace, ZeroInfinity, Space Expedition Curacao, and Starchaser Industries.
Pure Plays and Private Firms
Investors looking for a "pure play" on space exploration should turn to companies that derive most of their revenues from this sector. That would include Orbital Sciences, which builds launch vehicles and commercial satellites. Investors would also benefit by following private space companies including the Sierra Nevada Corporation; Blue Origin, founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos; and SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk and the only private firm to build a rocket to rendezvous with the International Space Station.
Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.