Elon Musk's total net worth hit $21.3 billion after SpaceX's most recent funding round made it the world’s fifth-most valuable startup. Credit: Flickr/OnInnovation

A recent funding round for SpaceX has made Elon Musk several billion dollars richer.

SpaceX raised $351 million last month in a funding round that increased the company’s valuation to more than $21 billion. That, in turn, increased Musk’s net worth by $4 billion.

That funding round, as well as a rise in Tesla shares, gives Musk an estimated net worth of $21.3 billion. [Bloomberg]

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Orbcomm has suffered failures of three satellites in recent months, forcing the company to develop plans for new satellites. Orbcomm said Thursday that the failures, which have taken place since April, have reduced the number of operational satellites in its OG2 constellation to 12 from the 18 originally launched. Orbcomm said that the failures have had little effect so far on message delivery times for its system. Orbcomm is considering launching a set of new satellites, called OG3, while also collaborating with Inmarsat to use capacity on its geostationary satellites. [SpaceNews]

Orbital ATK said it expects an increase in government satellite work to make up for any shortfall from a lack of commercial business. The company said Thursday that it expects to win only one or two commercial geostationary satellite orders this year, citing limited demand in the industry overall. However, an increase in government work, particularly for national security projects, “should offset or maybe go beyond offsetting” weakness in its commercial business. Orbital ATK added that it now expects its next Cygnus cargo mission to the ISS to take place in October, a month later than previously scheduled. [SpaceNews]

A commercial space situational awareness organization warned Bolivia’s space agency of a potential close pass by the malfunctioning EchoStar-3 satellite. AGI’s Commercial Space Operations Center alerted the Bolivian Space Agency last Saturday that EchoStar-3 would drift past Bolivia’s Tupak Katari-1 communications satellite in geostationary orbit. Bolivia is not part of the Space Data Association, an organization of satellite operators that shares satellite positioning data with other members through the AGI-run Space Data Center, but is considering joining it. [SpaceNews]

Vector said it successfully performed a second low-altitude test flight of its Vector-R small launch vehicle. The launch took place Thursday from the future site of Spaceport Camden in Georgia, with the rocket flying to a maximum altitude of no more than 3,000 meters before parachuting back to Earth. The flight is part of a series of incrementally more ambitious launches by the company leading to a first orbital launch of the vehicle some time next year. [SpaceNews]

Houston’s spaceport was a finalist to land Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine factory. Local officials said that Ellington Airport, an FAA-licensed spaceport, was in the running to host the factory Blue Origin plans to build for the engines that will power its own New Glenn vehicle and, potentially, ULA’s Vulcan rocket. Blue Origin selected Huntsville, Alabama, for the factory, which some in Houston believe was a choice based at least in part on politics. [Houston Chronicle]

This year’s annual Smallsat Conference will be bigger than ever. An estimated 2,500 people are expected to attend the 31st Annual Conference on Small Satellites next week at Utah State University, a number that has swelled in recent years because of the growing interest in smallsats for commercial and government applications. This year’s conference is focused on the role of smallsats in “big data” applications, one of the major challenges facing the industry. [SpaceNews]

A Texas man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of smuggling space technology to China and Russia.Peter Zuccarelli was charged in June with buying radiation-hardened microchips and then selling them to customers in China and Russia, mislabeling them as “touch screen parts” to get around export control restrictions. Such components have applications for both spacecraft and missiles. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines when sentenced. [Dallas Morning News]

The universe is not as lumpy as previously expected, astronomers report. A new survey of dark matter, carried out by measuring gravitational lensing of light, found that matter was not clumping together into giant structures as quickly as expected in the early universe. While the difference with cosmological models is not large, scientists suggest it could potentially be evidence of new physics, such as interactions between dark matter and dark energy. [Nature]

The Kuiper Belt object that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly by in 2019 may be a binary object.Analyses of the shape of 2014 MU69, based on stellar occultation observations made earlier this summer, suggest that the body could have a “duck” shape like that of the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, studied by ESA’s Rosetta mission, or even be two separate objects in contact with each other. New Horizons will fly by 2014 MU69 on New Year’s Day 2019. [The Verge]

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...