Commercialization of Space Travel Will Bring Costs Down to Earth

Popular with investors like billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk, space ventures will become more affordable as entrepreneurs find cheaper solutions.


“Space is popular again,” says Scott Larson, CEO of UrtheCast Corp., a Vancouver, Canada–based tech start-up. Larson should know — UrtheCast (pronounced “earthcast”) has raised some $55 million to put two cameras on the International Space Station. The company, which gathered that sum from high-net-worth investors and through a recent reverse initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange, plans to sell images and video of the Earth to clients ranging from governments to TV networks.

Billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk have helped whip up interest in the final frontier with their Virgin Galactic and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) transport ventures, respectively. But as Larson points out, space remains an expensive proposition dominated by governments. UrtheCast found a clever solution: It teamed up with Russian aerospace giant S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corp. Energia, which is backed by the Russian Federal Space Agency and plans to launch the cameras into orbit next month.

Entrepreneurs are figuring out how to do things more cheaply, Larson notes. “When the cost of putting something into space comes significantly down, like it’s doing, it really reduces the barriers to entry,” he says. “We’re heading in the right direction.” • •

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