I hadn’t realized that people had put down the full amount of the ticket.
This number jumped out at me:
Xcor eventually raised at least $19.2 million, according to Crunchbase, a platform that tracks fundraising.
Virgin Galactic has spent hundreds of millions of dollars. One wonder what might have been had XCOR gotten even twice as much as they did.
I disagree with this:
The companies took very different approaches to the challenge of reaching space. Virgin Galactic uses a twin-fuselage carrier aircraft to hoist a space plane known as SpaceShipTwo up to a high altitude; it releases the smaller craft, which ignites its own rocket motor to blast into space. Earlier this month, the company reached space with its SpaceShipTwo vehicle for the first time on a test flight.
Using another vehicle or booster to propel a crew craft to space is considered a “much more traditional approach,” said Sonya McMullen, assistant professor of aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. But Xcor would have the Lynx climb all the way up under its own power.
“They really took the hard technological approach to the same problem,” McMullen said.
Even for suborbital, there’s not that much benefit to air launch. Single-stage to suborbit is not a technological challenge. While XCOR may have underestimated the technical challenges of Lynx, I doubt there were any that couldn’t have been solved with more funding. Of course, the uncertainty of the market size probably didn’t help in that regard. But losing that ULA contract, after the Air Force cut the funding, was the final straw.
And as I’ve often said, despite the failures (so far) to get a commercial suborbital operation going, there are no intrinsic reasons why it has to be difficult. XCOR had a good technical approach that ultimately failed to find sufficient investment, and VG made poor initial business and design choices that has resulted in them becoming a money sink in a sunk-cost trap for over a decade, despite the much vaster financial resources. As I noted in the last post, I expect that Blue Origin will finally show the way and allow us to determine the market, next year. Maybe even VG finally will as well.