A sector once vibrant with big visions, monumental engineering feats, and talented minds was given life by the Apollo program. Running from 1961 to 1975, it inspired and attracted exceptional talent, employing 400,000 individuals and costing around $152 billion (in 2022 dollars). The Apollo program also seeded economic growth, leading to advancements in specialized manufacturing, computing, construction, logistics, transportation, and food production.
The talent developed during this period proved invaluable, shaping a generation of leaders experienced in high-stakes environments, cutting-edge technology, interdisciplinary expertise, and a risk-taking culture. Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad and Apollo 16's T.K. Mattingly went on to lead Universal Space Networks alongside Space Capital Partner, Tom Ingersoll, becoming one of the first successful private space companies. However, over time, the appeal of space faded and talent shifted towards other industries.
Today, we're witnessing a resurgence in the space domain, driven by entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson. Fueled by the cultural influence of the Apollo missions, these leaders have founded some of the most significant space companies today. To keep this momentum, capital is crucial. Over the past 20 years, approximately 1,900 space companies have raised nearly $290 billion in equity financing.
At the forefront is SpaceX, which has secured $9 billion in equity and a similar amount in government support, demonstrating impressive achievements such as developing the first liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit and sending astronauts to the International Space Station. As of today, the company has achieved 227 launches, 188 landings, and 162 reflights. With a thriving satellite communication business, they operate the largest satellite constellation ever built.
However, with the burgeoning space market, not every company will succeed. Recent bankruptcy filings like that of Virgin Orbit underline the volatility of the sector. Despite the challenges, the talent and lessons from these experiences are invaluable, and many will move on to new ventures.
We're witnessing history repeating itself as space again becomes a hub for top talent. This new generation of space companies is cultivating leaders who will establish new ventures. As partners at Space Capital, we're uniquely positioned to connect with these founders. Our proactive engagement with top business and engineering talent helps us build enduring relationships.