Virgin Orbit Failure Casts Cloud Over Space Voyages: Kiplinger Economic Forecasts

Virgin’s struggles created a downer for space travel but SpaceX could fill the void.

Large radio telescopes on the background of the starry sky
(Image credit: Getty)

Space is not just the preserve of scientists and astronauts. It’s also big business and has an impact on our economy and may even one day become a tourist destination.

Our experienced Kiplinger Letter team will update you on all the important developments (Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe). You will get updates first by subscribing, but we will publish many (but not all) of the forecasts a few days afterward online. Here’s the latest…

The rising challenges in space are highlighted by Virgin Orbit’s recent bankruptcy. The launch company struggled to rise amid a crowded field of space firms and underscores the froth in the market that we noted in January. 

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Virgin Orbit (VORBQ) was vying to offer flexibility and lower costs to take small satellites into orbit. The company, founded in 2017, has launched 33 satellites but burned through $1 billion in cash and couldn’t find more funding to keep operating, resulting in nearly 700 layoffs.

For now, the number of rocket launch providers well exceeds demand, especially with the economy slowing in the near term. Consider that even SpaceX, the leading launch provider, needs to secure funding to continue operations.

Meanwhile, note an upcoming milestone for the commercial space industry: SpaceX’s first launch of its Starship, a first-of-its-kind reusable rocket that’s nearly 400 feet tall, with a payload capacity of up to 150 tons. The initial focus is bringing satellites into orbit, but the rocket is capable of taking a crew to the moon or possibly Mars. 

SpaceX says it will be able to carry 100 people on long flights. The huge, reusable rocket will usher in a new era of commercial space travel.

This forecast first appeared in the The Kiplinger Letter. Since 1925, the Letter has helped millions of business executives and investors profit by providing reliable forecasts on business and the economy, as well as what to expect from Washington.  Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe.   

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