SpaceX’s ultimate mission is to develop a Starship fleet that will enable humanity to build the first settlement on Mars. The aerospace company became a Starlink satellite internet provider in hopes of obtaining enough customers to fund its space program long-term. However, SpaceX will not see profit from its Starlink division soon, the company is investing millions to deploy its satellite constellation and is losing a good amount of cash because its selling its Starlink dish at a much lower price than what it costs to make. The dish is a phased-array antenna that features technology 'more advanced than what is on fighter jets.' According to SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, the company has “made great progress on reducing the cost.” Initially, Each dish would cost SpaceX $3,000 USD to manufacture, Shotwell said they reduced the manufacturing cost to around $1,500 USD. Starlink customers only pay $499 USD for the dish and Wi-Fi router to access the service which is priced at $99 USD per month. The company is losing $1,000 for every Starlink dish sold.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in February that “SpaceX needs to pass through a deep chasm of negative cash flow over the next year or so to make Starlink financially viable. Every new satellite constellation in history has gone bankrupt. We hope to be the first that does not,” he stated. Musk says that if Starlink is successful, it could generate $30 billion in revenue annually, which is ten times more than what SpaceX’s launch services generate at $3 billion. To achieve that profit, SpaceX would have to obtain approximately 25 million Starlink internet subscribers at $99 USD per month. Starlink broadband service customers will be supporting SpaceX’s long-term goal to make life multiplanetary.
SpaceX aims to connect rural communities in the United States, places where traditional internet services cannot offer reliable service. Shotwell says SpaceX will “serve every rural household in the United States” –that’s “roughly 60 million people.” To date, the company operates approximately 1,443 satellites in orbit out of over 12,000 it plans to launch. The company expects to achieve near-global internet coverage by the end of this year, though, Shotwell says that SpaceX still has “a lot of work to do to make the network reliable.” Service reliability will come after thousands of satellites orbit Earth. Currently, the company launches clusters of 60 satellites atop previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket boosters per mission. Reusing the boosters is saving the company cash. In the future, SpaceX plans to launch up to 400 satellites per mission atop Starship, its next-generation launch vehicle that is currently under development in South Texas. Starship will help speed up the process to build a reliable Starlink constellation.
All Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.