I spent the day Wednesday at Space Investment Summit 5 in Los Angeles. I’ll provide a more detailed report later, but the brief summary of the meeting is that there is still investment taking place in the entrepreneurial NewSpace field, although the current financial crisis has put a damper on some activity, particularly anything involving larger amounts of money where institutional investors are traditionally involved. The audience was smaller than some earlier versions of this event, and perhaps more subdued if still optimistic about the long-term potential of the industry.
One company I didn’t notice at the event was Rocketplane Global (or, if they were there, kept a very low profile.) It turns out on Wednesday that Dave Faulkner, the company’s chief technology officer and program manager, was briefing the Oklahoma Space Industry Development Authority on the company’s status, the Oklahoma newspaper The Journal Record reported Thursday. Faulkner’s comments, as reported by the paper, appeared to indicate that technical development of the XP vehicle has ground to a halt as the company tries to raise money:
“I’m not going to give a timeline [for the first flight of the XP] until we get funding,” Faulkner said. “There are so many unknowns. We’ll have to ramp a team back up.” Rocketplane has scaled way back to the point where the company is now dedicated solely to fundraising, recently letting go of a few more part-time workers.
Faulkner added that Rocketplane is in talks with two potential investors for “small amounts of cash” to tide the company over until the market rebounds. He didn’t say how much the company was looking to raise, but said that the $18 million the company got from the state in 2004 in the form of transferable tax credits (which Rocketplane’s Chuck Lauer has described in the past as “winning the ‘O Prize'”) covers only about 10 percent of the XP’s development cost. George French has put a significant amount of his own money into the company, but that suggests that there is still a large chunk of money that Rocketplane needs to raise to be able to complete the XP’s development—no easy task in today’s economic climate.