Elon Musk’s SpaceX Is Raising Money At A Valuation Approaching $10B

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Update: SpaceX has responded with the following: “SpaceX is not currently raising any funding nor has any external valuation of the magnitude you reported been done.”

We have followed up with one of our sources who maintains that there is a secondary offering in process with term sheets circulating. Original story follows below.

Space Exploration Technologies, the commercial space transportation startup founded by Elon Musk with ambitions to land people on Mars, is raising investment that values the company somewhere south of $10 billion, TechCrunch has learned.

These new details are emerging while SpaceX, as the company is more commonly known, continues to make advances with its own spacecraft and rack up more agreements for future commercial and government launches. The company also potentially faces stiffer competition from other commercial firms that are looking to compete more aggressively in the new space race.

The latest capital infusion includes a large secondary investment, which appears to be somewhere in the region of $200 million. This confirms some of the details published in April this year by Quartz, which cited a source reporting that the company might be raising between $50 million and $200 million.

TechCrunch understands that among those investing in SpaceX are international financiers making secondary investments, but also investment firms in the U.S. such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson. DFJ has been a past investor and it also noted, in May, that it is making an investment in SpaceX out of its latest $470 million fund; Blumberg Capital is another name that TechCrunch has heard in connection with SpaceX financing. Update: David Blumberg says his firm is not a direct investor in the company.

SpaceX, which has been around since 2002, has been involved in secondary sales (of a sort) in the past: 137 Ventures, the firm founded by Justin Fishner-Wolfson that offers founders and other employees loans in exchange for some of their equity, counts SpaceX among its portfolio companies. Fishner-Wolfson had in the past been a principal at the Founders Fund, which also invested in SpaceX.

According to CrunchBase, SpaceX has raised $245.5 million in private backing, with the last round disclosed in December 2012. In its first 10 years of operation, SpaceX generated $4 billion in contracts (that includes funding from NASA between $400 million and $500 million). The manifest for upcoming launches lists just under 40 missions planned between now and 2018.

For satellite operators looking for launch vessels, part of the attraction of SpaceX has to do with price. Launches currently cost under $60 million for a low-Earth orbit launch on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 craft. But it is working on more efficient technology for the rockets, including reusability. (It has had some success already with return landings, as you can see in the video below.) If successful, the projection is that a launch could cost as little as between $5 million and $7 million.

In tandem, SpaceX is also pursuing its Mars ambitions. One big step on that trajectory is the development of spacecraft capable of carrying humans and cargo. Manned test missions involving the Falcon Heavy and the Dragon are planned in the next two to three years.

We have reached out to DFJ, Blumberg Capital, 137 Ventures and SpaceX for comment for this story and will update it as we learn more.

Image: SpaceX