Musk: we’re not spinning off Starlink 

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX has no plans to make Starlink a separate business, Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and chief executive, said March 9. 

Musk, speaking at the Satellite 2020 conference here, said SpaceX is “thinking about that zero,” instead focusing mainly on ensuring Starlink doesn’t flop. 

The precedent set by past companies that attempted big telecom constellations in low Earth orbit and went bankrupt, either briefly or permanently, is one SpaceX wants to avoid, he said. 

“That would be a big step, to have more than zero in the not bankrupt category,” Musk said. 

Iridium, Globalstar, Orbcomm and Teledesic all went bankrupt about two decades ago, though only Teledesic failed to recover and deploy a second-generation constellation. 

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell was quoted in Bloomberg in February saying the company was likely to spinoff Starlink as a public company. 

Musk said SpaceX needs Starlink as a revenue generator with more potential than the launch business where SpaceX has established itself with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. He estimated the broadband connectivity market is worth around $30 billion a year and that the launch sector is around $3 billion annually. 

Starlink, a broadband constellation of roughly 300 satellites today but that could eventually number 12,000, or even 42,000, will provide connectivity to people that are unreached or difficult to reach with fiber and cell towers, Musk said. 

“Starlink will effectively serve the 3% or 4% hardest to reach customers for telcos, or people who simply have no connectivity right now, or their connectivity is really bad,” Musk said. 

SpaceX does not plan to compete with established telecommunications providers, Musk said. 

The next 60 Starlink satellites launch March 15, Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink commercial sales at SpaceX said here. SpaceX is producing six Starlink satellites a day, he said.