Tesla’s Elon Musk aiming to build world’s first public-private space race

Is Elon Musk on the verge of creating the future? Lucid, a South-of-Boston-based start-up, is his most recent entry into that mergers-and-acquisitions derby.

On Friday night, Musk announced in a tweet that his infrastructure startup, SpaceX, had acquired its largest rival, Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX. In a company statement published the following day, Musk added that his Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) offshoot, called Neuralink, would acquire the spacecraft manufacturer, Virgin Orbit. The IIoT unit has acquired two others.

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It is the most meaningful move yet in the worldwide race to connect the world by re-engineering hardware, software and networks.

Musk, 51, has previously made some astonishing statements about his goals, but nobody believed him when he predicted in 2012 that SpaceX, a tech startup headquartered in Hawthorne, California, could create a private suborbital flight system to offer space tourism within five years. Last year, the X Prize foundation took him at his word.

Musk created the privately funded company after selling his electric car company, Tesla, to the Silicon Valley conglomerate, SpaceX’s parent company, two years ago. His SpaceX has spent billions of dollars to design and build reusable rockets and capsules, which have sent goods and people to space to date. While Musk’s ambitions for the future are larger than the launch vehicles, with a goal of moving humans to Mars within his lifetime, the submarine-like dimensions of his SpaceX. So far, the company has only been able to design rockets designed to lift cargo.

When the companies acquired by Elon Musk’s industrial internet of things unit announced acquisitions, the details almost read like covers stories

Having secured funding from Saudi Arabia and other investors, SpaceX designs and builds larger rockets than competitors. On Monday, SpaceX built the Falcon Heavy, the heaviest rocket to launch into space. This week, Musk said on Twitter that SpaceX had also taken a second seat on the International Space Station.

Musk founded SpaceX after co-founding PayPal, one of the world’s largest online payment providers. The billionaire entrepreneur’s personal fortune puts him in the top ten of the world’s richest people. This year, he could make between $2.5bn and $6bn, according to a Bloomberg analysis. The fortunes of most of the richest people in America, however, will remain flat or even slip during 2018, Bloomberg calculates.

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SpaceX also offers private trips into space and aims to eventually deliver cargo to and from Mars. Its Falcon Heavy and smaller Falcon 9 rockets have filled available seats on commercial spacecraft and commercial spacecraft maker Blue Origin operates the world’s second-most-powerful rocket and spacecraft, the New Shepard. One day, the billionaire can be viewed as less a genius, more of a humanitarian.

SpaceX’s previous acquisition is potentially more significant than last week’s announcements. The company acquired small satellite company, SES, last November, for as much as $1.6bn. There was no word on the number of jobs SpaceX is planning to cut as a result of the SES acquisition.

Such consolidation would be in line with some of the existing ambitions of private companies that chase targets – usually government-backed or enterprises that have product capabilities that are proprietary to that company. In December, the tiny, wireless chip maker, Qualcomm, bought the $24bn NXP Semiconductors for exclusive technology and development rights to cryptocurrency – though it says it may not bring in as many jobs as predicted, or as many as were thought they would.

If Musk’s goal is to create a public-private space race, his efforts, up to now, have only helped build a private race, much as he helped build a race for wireless-enabled power devices. Now, the man behind arguably the best piece of work on internet connectivity, Ubuntu, is poised to further integrate it.

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