Oct 6, 2018

Billionaires and their rockets

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The billionaires pouring money into rockets don't appear, at least so far, to be focused entirely on money. Instead, they are turning childhood love of sci-fi into a private space exploration companies. Elon Musk has SpaceX, Richard Branson has Virgin Galactic and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has Stratolaunch.

The big picture: Jeff Bezos is much richer than all of them put together, which means he's been able to worry less than any about profits, shareholders or commercial contracts.

He's also been much more secretive. Bezos rarely talks publicly about Blue Origin, his space company, except to say "it's the most important work I'm doing." Most of the company's development has happened behind the scenes.

  • Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000, when Amazon was still best known for selling books.
  • Today, it has some 1,300 employees split between its Kent, Wash., headquarters and its West Texas launch site.
  • Blue Origin uses reusable rockets designed to both launch and land upright, and plans to focus on both space tourism and commercial payloads.
  • SpaceX is already launching satellites on reusable rockets, while Blue Origin has sent test payloads.

The bottom line: There's a sneaking suspicion among many in the industry that Blue Origin is much further along than it's shared. And, even if not, it has unmatched access to resources that could help it leapfrog the competition.

Go deeper

The polarized pandemic election

A Trump supporter protests Pennsylvania's stay-at-home order, during a May 15 rally outside the Capitol in Harrisburg. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

President Trump is going all-in on pushing for a rapid, robust return to normal life, creating a visual, visceral contrast with Joe Biden and other Democrats who are more reticent to rip the masks off.

The state of play: Business friends have been urging Trump from the beginning to keep the lockdowns short. He's listening more and more.

Tech's long hot summer of antitrust

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Google, Facebook and other tech giants face a summer of regulatory grilling as long-running investigations into potential anticompetitive practices likely come to a head.

The big picture: Probes into the power of Big Tech launched by federal and state authorities are turning a year old, and observers expect action in the form of formal lawsuits and potentially damning reports — even as the companies have become a lifeline for Americans during the pandemic lockdown.

Palantir CEO hits Silicon Valley "monoculture," may leave California

Palantir is "getting close" to a decision on whether to move the company out of California, CEO Alex Karp said in an interview for "Axios on HBO."

The state of play: "We haven't picked a place yet, but it's going to be closer to the East Coast than the West Coast. ... If I had to guess, I would guess something like Colorado."