Steve Jurvetson on Traveling the Cosmos and Investing in Space

That Steve Jurvetson is excited by space investing is not new news. That he wants to travel the cosmos is something you’ve heard before.

Here are some details you haven’t.

Jurvetson, a managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson and an investor in Elon Musk’s SpaceX, sees big opportunities opening up from low-cost space travel and reusable rockets. He appeared on a panel at the Global Technology Symposium in Silicon Valley this morning and his arguments are convincing.

Imagine the demand for satellite imagery when low cost rockets permit the deployment of scores of inexpensive satellites capable of real time observations of the earth’s surface in enough detail to monitor daily deforestation and changes in crop yields region to region.

He says SpaceX helped break the ice of commercial development. And not surprisingly he is jazzed about the prospects ahead for the company. “It’s actually a great business under the covers,” he says, with $4 billion in product backlog.

What about his dream of personally traveling beyond the constraints of gravity?

“What I really want to do is lunar orbital flight,” says Jurvetson – as in fly several thousand feet or so above the surface to view its features. “The crazy thing is that it is affordable”…at least soon.

Jurvetson says he sees a role for venture capitalists in space investing. “It’s not capital intensive anymore,” he says. Think software.

The theme was echoed by George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, who while noting that capital intensity remains says change is afoot.

There will be a range of different investment levels, he says, and already people are thinking about space investing in ways they wouldn’t have five years ago, Whitesides says.

Virgin Galactic, for its part, is developing a service to take people into space and also anticipates a business delivering small satellites into low orbit. It eventually sees a market for space vacations.

At present, a trip to the cosmos costs $200,000, about the size of a seed round. So far over 500 people have signed up, mostly men.

Photo of Steven Jurvetson by Mark Boslet.

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  • I find the notion of low-cost, real time, high detailed monitoring of the earth’s surface quite intriguing. Imagine the creative applications, from military to commercial. Low cost space flight will enable this.

  • When they say low-cost space travel I wonder what exactly they mean. Will it be as cheap as taking a round-the-world flight? Will everyone get to go? Shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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