Why is Jeff Bezos losing the billionaire space race?
The Guardian Weekly|October 22, 2021
The Amazon founder’s firm has galaxies of cash but is plagued by safety concerns and a toxic workplace culture
Daniel Oberhaus

The billionaire space race is only a race by name. In reality, there is SpaceX – and everyone else. Only the company founded by Elon Musk nearly two decades ago has sent an orbital rocket booster into space and landed it safely again. Only SpaceX has landed a rocket the size of a 15-storey building on a drone ship in the middle of the ocean. Only SpaceX has carried both Nasa astronauts and private citizens to the International Space Station. Only SpaceX is producing thousands of its own table-sized communication satellites every year. Only SpaceX has the almost weekly launch cadence necessary to single-handedly double the number of operational satellites in orbit in less than two years. Only SpaceX is launching prototypes of the largest and most powerful rocket ever made, a behemoth called Starship that is destined to carry humans to the moon.

SpaceX’s total dominance of the rocket industry is not what you would expect. There is more innovation happening in the commercial space sector today than at any time in history, and the launch services sector is particularly competitive. Relativity Space is building the world’s first 3D -printed rocket and plans to build rockets on Mars with robots. Virgin Orbit is putting satellites into orbit by launching a rocket from beneath the wing of a jumbo jet. Its sister company, Virgin Galactic, is flying people to the edge of space from an air-launched space plane. RocketLab has developed the first rocket engine fed with an electric pump and is trying to catch it out of the air with a net connected to a helicopter.

And then there’s Blue Origin, which dominated world headlines for days last week with its launch of the Star Trek actor William Shatner – briefly – into space.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the newspaper

MORE STORIES FROM THE GUARDIAN WEEKLYView All

‘We're just country bumpkins!'

Wet Leg’s feelgood anthems have beguiled their fans. But, after playing for fun and turning down record labels, do they finally feel they are a ‘real band’?

7 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

‘We will fight' Actors and lawyers get ready to take up arms

The mood last week in Ukraine was eerily calm, despite talk of war.

4 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

Rock bottom Villagers fear losing land to Chinese mine owners

A convoy of trucks laden with huge black granite rocks trundles along the dusty pathway as a group of villagers look on grimly.

3 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

NOWHERE TO HIDE

How insects are losing the race against climate change

10+ mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

No go, Joe? A year on, Biden's big promises hit reality

Enemies within, a radicalised opposition and messaging failure have hamstrung the president’s first 12 months

8 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

Is this the end?

Boris Johnson’s lame ‘partygate’ excuses have been mocked by quiz show hosts and sports pundits. But while the UK prime minister is accustomed to ridicule , the deep anger of families who suff ered in the pandemic while obeying the rules will not go away. It’s now just a question of how long he survives …

6 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

In the Djokovic circus, it was the players who hit all the winners

Stefanos Tsitsipas learned to listen to Covid science the hard way. Not the really hard way, of course.

4 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

I remember 20 May 2020. It was the day I buried my sister

I remember well what I was doing on the evening of 20 May 2020, when more than 100 people were invited to a BYOB party in the prime minister’s garden, “to make the most of the lovely weather”.

3 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

Fallen idol? Speculation over silence of the nation's founding father

The question was being asked with increasing urgency last week: where is Nursultan Nazarbayev ?

3 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 21, 2022

Ukraine talks Can history help find a path to rapprochement with Putin?

So high have the stakes been set by Russia over the future security architecture of Europe, so imminent is the threat of war in Ukraine, that the three meetings due between Russia and the west this week have drawn comparison with great west-Russia exchanges of the past : Yalta in 1945, Paris in 1960 – over Berlin – and Reykjavík in 1986.

3 mins read
The Guardian Weekly
January 14, 2022
RELATED STORIES

2021 NOTEBOOK: BILLIONAIRES AND THE SPACE RACE

Captain Kirk — aka William Shatner — finally made it into space, part of the new wave of civilian travelers sponsored by names like Bezos, Musk and Branson who are slipping the surly bonds of Earth 10 years after NASA’s shuttle program ended. But there are big differences.

3 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #529

TIME MAGAZINE'S “PERSON OF THE YEAR” IS ELON MUSK

Calling him a “clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman,” Time magazine has named Tesla CEO Elon Musk as its Person of the Year for 2021.

2 mins read
AppleMagazine
December 17, 2021

MUSIC OF THE SPHERES

Astronaut Chris Sembroski took a Martin ukulele to space and discovered the joy of making music in microgravity.

9 mins read
Guitar Player
Holiday 2021

SPACEX'S MUSK: 1ST STARSHIP TEST FLIGHT TO ORBIT IN JANUARY

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that his company will attempt to launch its futuristic, bullet-shaped Starship to orbit in January, but he’s not betting on success for that first test flight.

2 mins read
Techlife News
20, November 2021

SPACEX LAUNCHES 53 STARLINK SATELLITES INTO ORBIT

SpaceX expanded its constellation of low Earth orbit satellites last Saturday (13) with the launch of 53 Starlink satellites from Florida.

1 min read
AppleMagazine
November 19, 2021

SPACEX CREW LAUNCH MARKS 600 SPACE TRAVELERS IN 60 YEARS

A SpaceX rocket carried four astronauts into orbit Wednesday night, including the 600th person to reach space in 60 years.

4 mins read
Techlife News
13, November 2021

WILLIAM SHATNER WILL FLY TO SPACE ABOARD BLUE ORIGIN ROCKET

Captain Kirk is rocketing into space next week — boldly going where no other sci-fi stars have gone.

3 mins read
AppleMagazine
Ocotber 08, 2021

Demand for SpaceX's Starlink Satellite Internet Pushes Wait Times to 2023

Demand for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband system may push wait times into 2023.

1 min read
PC Magazine
October 2021

MISSION CONTROL: APPLE HEALTH INSIGHTS ABOARD INSPIRATION4

Apple might be best known for its consumer electronics like iPhones and iPads, but behind the scenes, the Cupertino company is extending its interests far beyond.

6 mins read
AppleMagazine
September 10, 2021

LET'S PLAY HORSESHOE THEORY

FUTURE

7 mins read
Reason magazine
October 2021