If there’s one thing that the private aerospace industry has taught us this year, it’s that there’s enough space for everyone to play. However, the industry is currently being occupied by some of the world’s wealthiest men.
Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and noted philanthropist, has thrown his hat into the ring as he recently backed a fledgling space startup.
Backing Stoke Space With Big Bucks
Early this month, Breakthrough Energy ventures - a clean technology initiative created by Gates - announced that it had secured a $65 million funding round to back Stoke pace. In a press release, Breakthrough confirmed that it had participated in the Kent, Washington-based space startup as the latter looks to create a new wave of reusable rockets.
While the investment is notable, it would also appear that Breakthrough didn’t just back Stoke Space because of its technology alone. Carmichael Roberts, the investment vehicle’s co-head, explained that the investment had been driven by their desire to improve the environment. In the press release, Roberts pointed out that one of the best ways to view the planet and its climate change predicament is by looking through space.
“Imagine being able to detect wildfires in any country within minutes, identifying oil and gas methane emissions in real time for remediation, or verifying carbon stocks globally to enable large-scale carbon offset markets. These are just a few of the far-reaching opportunities that greater access to space can provide through advanced satellite technology,” Roberts added in the press release.
Reducing Debris and Waste in Space
Breakthrough added that the application of reusable rockets can help overcome two critical barriers for these applications. They believe that Stoke Space is on the verge of creating low-cost, high-efficiency rockets that will be able to launch and offer dedicated orbital payload delivery.
Andy Lapsa, Stoke Space’s chief executive, chimed in by pointing out that the aerospace industry has been a massive contributor to global warming. From the burning of hydro chemicals to the abandonment of space debris, there are several areas where space companies and agencies can do better.
“There are a lot of unsustainable rocket practices that have been done through history. I think we’re in general getting smarter about that, and a reusable second stage is a big, important part of that. We can’t be dumping rockets in the ocean as we start flying hundreds or thousands of times per year.”
The investment appears to be an interesting one for Gates. The billionaire has spent a significant chunk of his life fighting different crises, but the climate change problem has been especially challenging for him to crack. His investment in Stoke Space is a sign that he believes the company has what it takes to help keep the environment safe.
Stoke Space is looking to build 100 percent reusable rockets. This means that all stages of their rockets - from the engines to the nose cones - will be used several times. The company will also be looking towards launching satellites, and it is now working hard to meet its test deadline of 2022.
For now, no one knows when Stoke’s rockets will be usable. However, with Gates’ new funding secured, the company should have enough resources to get something off the ground soon.
The Race to Be Earth’s First Space Janitor
Interestingly, Gates isn’t the only notable tech guru to be stepping into the space industry. Back in September, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak announced via social media that he would start a private space company of his own. The company - known as Privateer Space - is still much of a mystery. However, an unrelated press release, which was obtained by a news source, showed that it will focus on monitoring and cleaning up space debris.
Wozniak will team up with Alex Fielding, the founder of notable desktop chat tool Ripcord, on the company. The Apple co-founder explained in his release that he will focus on ensuring that space is accessible to everyone for generations. For now, Privateer’s website shows that the company is still in “stealth mode.” But, all eyes will be on the company and its mission to clean up space.
Companies like Stoke Space and Privateer Space are quite important. The climate change problem facing humanity has also extended beyond our Earth, with space debris becoming more of a problem across the board. According to data, the amount of debris being released into space has increased by about 100 percent for the past two decades.
Someone will need to clean all of this up, and it is interesting to see companies throwing their hats into the ring. All eyes will definitely be on this new wave of private aerospace companies going forward.