It may take a while for Starlink to reach profitability. The SpaceX project, which aims to deliver global high-speed broadband over a satellite network, sells its beta kits to customers for around $ 500, although it is much more expensive to manufacture, CEO Elon Musk said in an interview on Tuesday.
The kit contains a user terminal, a type of dish that connects the customer to the satellites and enables broadband access. “To be completely honest, we’re losing money at this terminal,” he said. “This terminal costs us more than $ 1,000, so of course I’m subsidizing the cost of the terminal.” He added that SpaceX is working on a next-generation terminal that can provide the same functionality but at a lower cost.
SpaceX’s total investment in the project could be anywhere from $ 5 billion to $ 10 billion initially and up to $ 30 billion over time as the company continues to make improvements and remain competitive with cellular technology improvements, he said.
Musk, who made these comments during a virtual keynote at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Tuesday, also shared more details on the current status of Starlink. The project is well on its way to having over half a million users in the next 12 months, he said, and is operating in about 12 countries, with “more added every month”.
SpaceX is also about to launch version 1.5 of the satellite, which will feature laser intersatellite links to ensure continuous connectivity over high latitudes and polar regions. Next year the company will be releasing version 2, “which will be significantly more powerful,” noted Musk.
The project has entered into two partnerships with major telecommunications companies in the country, but Musk refused to mention their names.
Starlink is hard to imagine without SpaceX’s breakthrough in rocket reusability. “But we have to take that to another level [ … ] the Starship development, ”said Musk. This rocket will be designed for quick reusability – the ability to restart between flights with little or no time on the ground, similar to the capabilities of an airplane today.
Spaceships are key to Musk’s vision of building a base on the moon or a city on Mars. He said the company hopes to make its first orbital launch attempt with Starship in the next few months. SpaceX submitted an application for approval with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fly Starlink terminals on the new spacecraft to demonstrate “high data rate communications” between the Starship launch system and the ground throughout the mission.