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From left: Meagan Roth, Firefly Aerospace; Brandi Sippel, Muon Space; Will Bruey, Varda Space Industries; Ryan Westerdahl, Turion Space; Tom Mueller, Impulse Space. Source: The companies
Dec. 22, 2022 6:00 AM PST

Elon Musk rose to prominence as a member of the “PayPal mafia,” a nickname for alumni of the digital payments provider who went on to create or work at other important tech startups. Now one of Musk’s companies—rocket maker SpaceX—is also pumping out alumni who are taking on key roles at a growing crop of aerospace companies popping up across the U.S.

The Information compiled a list of seven such space startups either founded or led by SpaceX alumni, whom some call SpaceExers. It includes rocket startups like Firefly Aerospace and ABL Space Systems, which are getting closer to launches that will eventually lob satellites into orbit on behalf of government and corporate clients. Also on the list are Muon Space and Impulse Space, which are building satellites and spacecraft, respectively, that will make it easier for more organizations to do research or engage in commerce in space.

Collectively, the startups are aiming to tap into a growing commercial space market that SpaceX has pioneered. The 20-year-old company—which currently has a market valuation of $140 billion—has become the most prolific launch provider in the world, with more than 60 rockets blasting off in 2022 alone. SpaceX has made getting to space cheaper by popularizing reusable rockets, which land themselves back on Earth after each launch.

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