Dec 20, 2019 - Science

Investors are putting big money in small rocket companies

Data: Space Angels; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Space Angels; Chart: Axios Visuals

Since 2009, more than $3 billion has been invested in companies building rockets to deliver small satellites to space, according to data provided to Axios by Space Angels.

The big picture: At the moment, most small satellites are delivered to orbit by hitching rides on larger rockets carrying other, bigger payloads as their primary missions.

  • These small launcher companies are banking on the idea that in the future, small payload operators will want dedicated rides of their own.

By the numbers: In 2018, global investment in small launcher companies hit $823 million, with $451 million invested in these types of companies through Q3 of 2019.

The intrigue: With dozens of companies aiming to break into the small launcher business in the coming years, experts are concerned that a bubble is forming in that part of the market.

  • Driving the news: Vector Space — one of the companies that was once considered at the forefront of this kind of launcher development — filed for bankruptcy on December 13.
  • Part of the growth in 2018 was spurred by investment in Vector as well as a number of other small launch providers that are now trying to get off the ground.

The bottom line: Vector's troubles could signal that the small launcher bubble is bursting.

Go deeper: Houston, we have a rocket bubble

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that global investment in small launcher companies hit $823 million in 2018 (not $832 million).

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