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Iridium, which lost perhaps $5 billion, was among the biggest failures in the low earth orbit satellite communications business. Teledesic arguably lost less, because it failed earlier. And then there was Globalstar. And ICO. And Orbcomm.

But Thuraya succeeded.

So can Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Greg Wyler successfully create two new satellite communication networks that are sustainable? Some might argue the odds are far better, and for the same reason the odds of creating a successful application startup are higher than 15 years ago.

The information technology components of the business arguably are an order of magnitude lower.

And both the WorldVu Satellites and SpaceX ventures have access to backers who have their own launch technology, likewise with launch cost profiles substantially lower than what has been possible in the past.

The continuing danger is that SpaceX might have a cost advantage of only 60 percent. Whether that is enough cost reduction is the issue.

The other issue is whether revenue opportunities are big enough.

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