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Last week, the tiny cosmic start-up, known as "SpaceX" to its friends, made history when it launched a Falcon 9 rocket into earth orbit. By sending its rocket up 155 miles, and "sticking" it up there, SpaceX staked a claim to "contender" status in the race to space -- and the race to riches, as private companies take over missions previously reserved for NASA. It took a first step toward fulfilling the promise inherent in its multiple 2008 contract wins, when alongside more established rival Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB ) , NASA tapped SpaceX to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
It's a big dream, but SpaceX founder Elon Musk has never been one to shy away from a challenge. In the market for moving dollars from Point A to Point B, he built PayPal into a viable contender to Western Union before he sold off the company to eBay for a small fortune. He's taken said fortune and used it to found both SpaceX and electric car maker Tesla Motors.
Hurray for him. What's in it for me?
Fair question. This is, after all, an investing website. And good news for a private business like SpaceX may not seem all that relevant to investors in public companies. But according to The Wall Street Journal, SpaceX may not stay private for long. In an orbit-inspired story on the company's history yesterday, the Journal discussed SpaceX's need for capital at some length. Turns out, cash flow problems have already forced Musk to sell off a 20% stake in his brainchild. Now that SpaceX has some positive press under its belt, the stage may be set for an IPO.
If this is the way it plays out, it could mean a win-win scenario for all concerned. SpaceX could raise much-needed capital, and avoid the "Big Space" bearhug that's already seen Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC ) envelope Scaled Composites, maker of SpaceShipOne. It could even pave the way for "me-too!" IPOs by Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.
In which case, Fools too could soon see their chance to buy a piece of pie in the sky.
Want to learn more about SpaceX? Train your telescope on the following Foolish stars: