Earlier this week, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley returned to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS), capping off what will go down in history as a truly groundbreaking mission. After docking with the ISS two months earlier in late May, the astronauts have officially completed the first-ever crewed commercial flight of SpaceXs Dragon capsule.
Of course, astronauts have been flying to the ISS for decades, but the successful mission marks a critical moment in U.S. space exploration and travel a moment of domestic independence. After a long period of reliance on Russian Soyuz rockets for ISS docking, NASA is now working with SpaceX, a private American company instead.
NASAs shift to a private launch partner comes with more than a nationalistic benefit too. The cost of a seat on SpaceXs Dragon crew capsule comes in at $55 million. The cost for a seat on Roscosmos Soyuz rocket is nearly double at $90 million.
NASA already has its Crew-2 targeted to launch in spring 2021. This wasnt a one-off, in other words; its arguably the dawn of a new era in space travel.
As one might expect, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was ecstatic upon the missions completion. This is an enormous win for his company, and it puts him in an incredibly influential position as far as NASA missions are concerned. Heres what Musk had to say at the welcoming ceremony:
I do think what this heralds really is fundamentally a new era in spaceflight. We're going to go to the moon, we're going to have a base on the moon, we're going to send people to Mars and make life multiplanetary, and I think this day heralds a new age of space exploration. That's what it's all about.
Musks bold ambitions to colonize space have never been a secret, but after putting astronauts on a spaceship, sending them to orbit, and then returning them home safely, those ambitions have never been closer to reality. At least, that may be the way it seems.
Im a pretty big fan of science fiction, but Ill be the first to admit that colonizing the moon and going to Mars isnt quite as alluring as a man like Musk makes it out to be. We already know what its like on both of these celestial bodies: Its barren, cold, and utterly unlivable. Even if the most dire predictions of climate change were to wreak havoc on Earth, humanity would still be much better off sticking it out right here.
That isnt to say that humans wont eventually need to extend their reach or that space exploration isnt important, but we will have to find something more livable before we get there; neither Mars nor the moon are it.
Considering Elon Musks intellectual prowess, its difficult to believe he hasnt considered that the temperature on Mars averages out to negative 81 degrees Fahrenheit, that the atmosphere is almost entirely carbon dioxide, or that the planet is prone to violent dust storms that kick up toxic soil. Could Elon really be this clueless about the inhabitability of Mars? Probably not.
Love him or hate him, Musk is no dummy, if measured only by the simple fact of what he has accomplished. Musk is a one-of-a-kind businessman who knows how to leverage lofty promises for funding and media attention. He channels his inner Tony Stark, promising humanitarian advancements and convincing the government to subsidize his operations.
You see, Musks most newsworthy ambition may be advancing humanity into a multiplanetary species, but the real long-term business model of SpaceX isnt about NASA contracts: Thats just the starting point. The real moneymaker for SpaceX is its Starlink network: a constellation of thousands of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites designed to cover the entire Earth.
Late last month, Morgan Stanley released a research report updating its long-term valuation estimate for SpaceX. The investment bank believes the companys value could soar to as much as $175 billion because of Starlink.
Of course, Starlink is still a private company, so as far as retail investors are concerned, its off the table until the company holds an IPO. But SpaceX isnt the only company building out this new kind of LEO constellation; Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), OneWeb, and Boeing (NYSE: BA) are just a few companies working on similar networks.
Those who have been with us long enough know that weve been talking about LEO constellations and the moneymaking opportunity surrounding them for the last half-decade. For instance, I was shouting from the rooftops for investors to buy Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE: AJRD), a critical satellite component supplier, as early as 2016. The stock shot up over 300% during that time frame.
Now, on the heels of SpaceXs successful Dragon crew launch, the institutions are finally catching up. RBC upgraded Aerojet to Outperform on Wednesday, with a $54 price target. The company is far less attractive today than when we first began covering it, but its a future-minded stock that investors can still feel comfortable holding long term.
That all said, investors looking to get in on private companies akin to SpaceX arent to be pigeonholed to the public stock market for these kinds of huge gains: There are new and emerging opportunities in private equity that have recently become accessible to Main Street investors.
Ive heard from countless investors recently who have been begging for easier entry into private companies. The demand isnt surprising at all because this is how billionaires like Elon Musk ultimately make their wealth: by securing ownership before everyone else.
In fact, the demand for private equity is so great, I personally know an analyst who left his desk at Morgan Stanley to teach Main Street investors how to get in on private equity deals without having to be an industry insider or an accredited investor.
He recently launched a new investment service called Main Street Ventures where he lays out a simple three-step system for pinning down the most compelling private deals. He sent me a video explaining the system in a private email last week, but Im sharing it with you right here, because the public needs to see it.
Until next time,
@JasonStutman on Twitter
Jason Stutman is Wealth Daily's senior technology analyst and editor of investment advisory newsletters Technology and Opportunity and Topline Trader. His strategy for building winning portfolios is simple: Buy the disruptor, sell the disrupted.
Covering the broad sector of technology and occasionally dabbling in the political sphere, Jason has written hundreds of articles spanning topics from consumer electronics and development stage biotechnology to political forecasting and social commentary.
Outside the office Jason is a lover of science fiction and the outdoors. He writes through the lens of a futurist, free market advocate, and fiscal conservative. Jason currently hails from Baltimore, Maryland, with roots in the great state of New York.
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