The 10 most innovative companies in space

After NASA embraced the private space industry, the investment dollars began flowing. In 2015, more than $2 billion in bets were placed on space startups, but in 2016 things came back down to Earth—a 30% decrease year-over-year, according to CBInsights. At the same time, many of the companies on this year's list have announced revenue-generating partnerships, which means that 2017 may well include several exciting, ambitious, and highly public product—and rocket—launches. Keep your eyes on the skies.

Click on a company to learn more about why it made the list.

01. ORBITAL INSIGHT

For analyzing data from a constellation of satellites

02.SPIRE

For delivering better weather intel

03. SPACEX

For reigniting our interest in rockets

RELATED: SpaceX Dragon passenger spaceship

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SpaceX Dragon passenger spaceship
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SpaceX Dragon passenger spaceship

The SpaceX Pad Abort Vehicle was manufactured at the company's Hawthorne, California, headquarters before being shipped to Florida for the pad abort test at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft is equipped with four quads each containing two SuperDraco engines for a total of eight thrusters that will be fired during the test to evaluate the capability of the launch abort system.

(Photo via SpaceX)

At Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is being prepared for a test to simulate an emergency abort from the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 40. The ability to escape from a launch or pad emergency and safely carry the crew out of harm's way is a crucial element for NASA's next generation of crew spacecraft. SpaceX will perform the test under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with NASA, and will use the data gathered during the development flight as it continues on the path to certification.

(Photo via NASA)

Eight SuperDraco engines boost a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft away from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in an emergency pad abort simulation. Each of the eight SuperDraco engine generates 15,000 pounds of thrust and burns about six seconds. The test began at 9 a.m. After the engines shut down, the Dragon spacecraft's trunk, with passive fins for stability, will separate when it reaches peak altitude.

(Photo via NASA)

Eight SuperDraco engines boost a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft away from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in an emergency pad abort simulation. Each of the eight SuperDraco engine generates 15,000 pounds of thrust and burns about six seconds. The test began at 9 a.m. After the engines shut down, the Dragon spacecraft's trunk, with passive fins for stability, will separate when it reaches peak altitude.

(Photo via NASA)

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft descends into the Atlantic Ocean under a parachute following a simulated emergency at the launch pad. SpaceX is placing the Crew Dragon through a worst-case scenario abort tests in order to reduce risk and refine the design.

(Photo via NASA)

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft descends into the Atlantic Ocean under a parachute following a simulated emergency at the launch pad. SpaceX is placing the Crew Dragon through a worst-case scenario abort tests in order to reduce risk and refine the design.

(Photo via NASA)

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft descends into the Atlantic Ocean under a parachute following a simulated emergency at the launch pad. SpaceX is placing the Crew Dragon through a worst-case scenario abort tests in order to reduce risk and refine the design.

(Photo via NASA)

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04. BLUE ORIGIN

For making the private space race competitive

05. KYMETA

For propelling internet service to new heights

06. CHINA AEROSPACE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CORP

For launching China back into space

07. ROCKET LAB

For giving small satellites lift-off

08. ASTROSCALE

For safely redirecting space debris

09. STRATOLAUNCH SYSTEMS

For turning a plane into a launchpad

10. MOON EXPRESS

For bringing us back to the moon

This article is part of our coverage of the World's Most Innovative Companies of 2017.

RELATED: NASA's best photos of 2016

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NASA's best photos of 2016
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NASA's best photos of 2016

Sunset From the International Space Station

Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Jeff Williams of NASA captured a series of photos for this composite image of the setting sun reflected by the ocean.

Photo Credit: NASA

Space Station Flight Over the Southern Tip of Italy

The southern tip of Italy is visible in this image taken by the Expedition 49 crew aboard the International Space Station on Sept. 17, 2016. The brightly lit city of Naples can be seen in the bottom section of the image. A Russian Soyuz spacecraft can be seen in the foreground.

Photo Credit: NASA

Star Trails Seen From Low Earth Orbit

Astronauts on the International Space Station captured a series of incredible star trail images on Oct. 3, 2016, as they orbited at 17,500 miles per hour. The station orbits the Earth every 90 minutes, and astronauts aboard see an average of 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours.

Photo Credit: NASA

Many Fantastic Colors

The Nili Fossae region, located on the northwest rim of Isidis impact basin, is one of the most colorful regions of Mars. This region is ancient and has had a complicated geologic history, leading to interesting structures like layered bedrock, as well as other compositions.

Photo Credit: NASA

Wind Carved Rock on Mars

The distinctively fluted surface and elongated hills in this image in Medusae Fossae are caused by wind erosion of a soft fine-grained rock. Called yardangs, these features are aligned with the prevailing wind direction. This wind direction would have dominated for a very long time to carve these large-scale features into the exposed rock.

Photo Credit: NASA

Rains of Terror on Exoplanet HD 189733b

This Halloween, take a tour with NASA's Exoplanet Exploration site of some of the most terrifying destinations in our galaxy. The nightmare world of HD 189733 b is the killer you never see coming. To the human eye, this far-off planet looks bright blue. But any space traveler confusing it with the friendly skies of Earth would be badly mistaken.

Photo Credit: NASA

Aurora and Manicouagan Crater

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station adjusted the camera for night imaging and captured the green veils and curtains of an aurora that spanned thousands of kilometers over Quebec, Canada.

Photo Credit: NASA

Paris at Night

Around local midnight time on April 8, 2015, astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Paris, often referred to as the “City of Light.” The pattern of the street grid dominates at night, providing a completely different set of visual features from those visible during the day.

Photo Credit: NASA

Stargazing From the International Space Station

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) see the world at night on every orbit — that’s 16 times each crew day. An astronaut took this broad, short-lens photograph of Earth’s night lights while looking out over the remote reaches of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean.

Photo Credit: NASA

Election Day 2016

Thanks to a bill passed by Texas legislators that put in place technical voting procedure for astronauts, they have the ability to vote from space through specially designed absentee ballots. To preserve the integrity of the secret vote, the ballot is encrypted and only accessible by the astronaut and the county clerk responsible for casting it.

Photo Credit: NASA

Fiery South Atlantic Sunset

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station photographed a sunset that looks like a vast sheet of flame. With Earth’s surface already in darkness, the setting sun, the cloud masses, and the sideways viewing angle make a powerful image of the kind that astronauts use to commemorate their flights.

Photo Credit: NASA

Ring Details on Display

This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft showcases some of the amazingly detailed structure of Saturn's rings.

Photo Credit: NASA

Hubble Takes Flight with the Toucan and the Cluster

NGC 299 is an open star cluster located within the Small Magellanic Cloud just under 200,000 light-years away.

Photo Credit: NASA

Hubble Spies Spiral Galaxy

Spiral galaxy NGC 3274 is a relatively faint galaxy located over 20 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion).

Photo Credit: NASA

Practicing Orion Spacecraft Recovery After Splashdown

A group of U.S. Navy divers, Air Force pararescuemen and Coast Guard rescue swimmers practice Orion underway recovery techniques in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Center to prepare for the first test flight of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft with the agency’s Space Launch System rocket during Exploration Mission (EM-1).

Photo Credit: NASA

A Trio of Plumes in the South Sandwich Islands

On September 29, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this false-color image (MODIS bands 7-2-1) showing volcanic activity in the South Sandwich Islands. Located in the South Atlantic Ocean, the uninhabited South Sandwich Islands include several active stratovolcanoes.

Photo Credit: NASA

Infrared Echoes of a Black Hole Eating a Star

This illustration shows a glowing stream of material from a star, disrupted as it was being devoured by a supermassive black hole. The feeding black hole is surrounded by a ring of dust. This dust was previously illuminated by flares of high-energy radiation from the feeding black hole, and is now shown re-radiating some of that energy.

Photo Credit: NASA

Hubble Views a Colorful Demise of a Sun-like Star

This star is ending its life by casting off its outer layers of gas, which formed a cocoon around the star's remaining core.

Credit: NASA

Infrared Saturn Clouds

This false-color view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows clouds in Saturn's northern hemisphere. The view was made using images taken by Cassini's wide-angle camera on July 20, 2016, using a combination of spectral filters sensitive to infrared light at 750, 727 and 619 nanometers.

Photo credit: NASA

Moonset Viewed From the International Space Station

Expedition 47 Flight Engineer Tim Peake of ESA took this striking photograph of the moon from his vantage point aboard the International Space Station on March 28, 2016. Peake shared the image on March 30 and wrote to his social media followers, "I was looking for #Antarctica – hard to spot from our orbit. Settled for a moonset instead."

Photo credit: NASA

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