By a distance the largest and best known name in the private space industry, Elon Musk's $10 billion behemoth is gunning for Nasa's crown. SpaceX already provides cargo runs for the agency with its signature Falcon 9 and Dragon capsules, and it will deliver astronauts from 2017. Musk is hoping to bring humans to Mars in the coming decades. On December 22, 2015, the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landing upright at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Jeff Bezos, billionaire founder of Amazon.com, has had a long fascination with space. He founded a private aerospace company in 2000 aimed more at the suborbital tourist market. The New Shepard capsule, which successfully landed on November 24, 2015, is designed to travel about 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) above the surface of the Earth and land safely.
Among the most popular start-ups for investors, Moon Express has raised over $30 million in private capital, and is bidding to scoop the Google Lunar Xprize by achieving the first moon landing by a private company. Co-founder Naveen Jain expects the mission to take place in 2017, ahead of wide-ranging exploration of the Moon and the potential establishment of an International Lunar Observatory.
Entrepreneur Robert Bigelow is seeking to capture the orbital accommodation market with a space-creating, inflatable design. A partnership with NASA will see the company's BEAM (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module) delivered and attached to the International Space Station. The design compresses to eight feet wide in transit but expands to 565 cubic feet. The company also has plans for an 80,000 cubic feet model, and beyond that hopes to create habitation for the Moon.
However fast the price drops, space tourism will likely to remain an elite pursuit for the foreseeable future. But Space VR offers the experience of space to anyone with $10 and a virtual reality headset. For that price, armchair astronauts will be able to access live cameras aboard the International Space Station and navigate a 360-degree environment from the comfort of home.
A forward-thinking venture to ensure that space does not become as polluted as earth, this Singapore start-up has pioneered "spacesweeping" to clean up dangerous debris. A catcher satellite uses GPS to lock on to an object up to 100kg, before releasing smaller, adhesive satellites that stick to and drag it down to burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Founded in 1994 to produce space tethers, the company has since diversified into new services and products. NASA recently awarded it a contract to recycle trash from the International Space Station into useable material for 3D printing. Better still, the company will soon launch its Spiderfab innovation, a spindly robot capable of assembling -- or spinning - structures in orbit, such as spacecraft booms, solar power hubs and satellites.
Headquartered in the Mojave Desert alongside Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, Xcor has lacked the financial resources of its better-known competitor, but may yet win the race to send tourists sub-orbital. The company has received over 200 advanced bookings at around $150,000 each for a ride in its Lynx Spaceplane, powered by jet fuel and liquid oxygen, which will take off four times a day from as early as 2016.