Despite Antares and Virgin Galactic setbacks, space entrepreneurship is about to be huge

October was a tough month for space enthusiasts and the world’s private space industry. The explosion of the Antares rocket, was followed just a few days later by the crash of Virgin Galactic’s and Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo space plane.
While it’s entirely reasonable to see these pair of events as a setback for the private space industry, I heard a very different view last week in Vienna, where I was moderating a discussion about space entrepreneurship at the Pioneers Festival.
My fireside chat featured Pete Worden, director of NASA Ames in Silicon Valley, and Andy Aldrin, president of Moon Express, which has planned the first private mission to the moon sometime next year or early 2016.
And speaking on stage before us was Mike Safyan of San Francisco’s Planet Labs. The company lost 26 of its low-Earth imaging satellites in the Antares explosion. In conversations on and off stage, all three sounded a common theme: We are on the cusp of an exciting new era in space entrepreneurship.
While the conference took place before the Virgin accident, they were clear that the Antares explosion wouldn’t have much impact on the growing space economy. “This is absolutely an exciting time for space entrepreneurship,” Worden told me. “There’s so much happening right now. And the next five years are going to be incredible. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here and talk about this.”
Of course, there have been some headline-grabbing space startups in recent years. Like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. And Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origins. And of course Google and NASA have been partnering with Silicon Valley companies on projects like quantum computing to help find life-supporting planets.