MONEY FOR MARS: Inside SpaceX’s quest to make Starlink the world’s top off-planet internet business

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SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk, plans to surround Earth with Starlink satellites and provide global high-speed, low-latency internet service. SpaceX; Kevork Djansezian/Getty; Business Insider

SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by tech mogul Elon Musk, wants to get you online anywhere in the world — and with broadband-like speeds — using Starlink, a next-generation fleet of internet-beaming satellites.

Musk first publicly discussed the concept in 2015, noting that a constellation of spacecraft in low-Earth orbit could provide far higher data speeds with much less lag compared to traditional geosynchronous satellite-internet service providers. Since then, SpaceX has earned permission from the Federal Communications Commission to deploy nearly 12,000 desk-size satellites by mid-2027 (though the company has plans to fly perhaps 42,000 spacecraft) and has launched more than 900 Starlink satellites into space.

With Starlink, SpaceX hopes to nab about 3% to 5% of an annual trillion-dollar global telecommunications industry, or about $US30 billion to $US50 billion per year, Musk has said, yet as a means to ambitious off-world ends.

“We see this as a way for SpaceX to generate revenue that can be used to develop more advanced rockets and spaceships,” Musk told reporters during a May 2019 teleconference call. “We think this is a key stepping stone on the way towards establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon.”

SpaceX kicked off a public beta test program in the northern US and Canada in 2020, which testers have lauded (as most lacked access to high-speed internet service before Starlink). But analysts continue to probe how and whether Starlink can turn profit. Those questions occur amid growing controversies involving satellite failure rates, the potential creation of orbital debris, and ongoing impacts to astronomy.

Insider has dug up documents, received and analysed closely held information from insiders, spoken to testers and analysts, and more in the name of getting inside an effort that could change how and where millions of people get online, all while powering Musk’s Martian dream.

We’ve compiled a timeline, below, of select news and analysis about Starlink’s evolution as a business. To help power our journalism focused on the space industry, please consider becoming a regular subscriber.

December 2020


November 2020

October 2020

September 2020

July 2020

June 2020

March 2020

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