TAMPA, Fla. — SpaceX’s ability to quickly change and update services has been awkward for resellers, an executive for the low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband constellation said Sep. 13.

“It’s been challenging because we are so nimble,” Starlink vice president of commercial sales Jonathan Hofeller said Sept. 13, “and we have to be smarter about how [this] affects our resellers.”

He said it’s not uncommon for SpaceX to want to add a Starlink plan on a Friday and then adopt it Monday.

“Well, that affects our partners and we’re learning how to be better partners in that sense,” he said on a panel for World Satellite Business Week in Paris.

However, he said Starlink’s ability to iterate rapidly helps the company adapt to changing customer needs and plans. 

The constant refining also enables Starlink react to sudden events, such as natural disasters and other changes on a regional or global basis.

SpaceX can also change and update Starlink services at pace because the vertically integrated company builds and launches the satellites in-house. 

After initially solely focusing on selling directly to consumers, Starlink opened up to reseller channels about a year ago to help expand into markets including maritime, energy, and aviation.

“We do have channel conflict,” Hofeller said, “which is one of the things that we’re exploring and … figuring out how to work through.”

But Starlink is “also seeing that customers look for additional added services such as cybersecurity, install, customer support — above and beyond just great, raw, high-speed, low-latency capacity,” and so the company is “looking to our partners to provide that to the end customers.”

Starlink announced a partnership earlier in the day with SES, which operates a constellation of geostationary and medium Earth orbit satellites, to provide a combined service for cruise lines.

SES is taking the lead on selling and managing the joint offering, including antenna installation.

The financials

Starlink now has more than 1.5 million customers worldwide, according to Hofeller.

While he did not discuss financials, he said the company is no longer subsidizing user antennas.

Starlink achieved $1.4 billion in revenues for 2022 compared with $222 million the year before, reported the Wall Street Journal Sept. 13, citing documents.

According to the report, the company projected in a 2015 investor presentation that Starlink would net nearly $12 billion in revenue for 2022 and have 20 million subscribers by the end of that year, as well as $7 billion in operating profit.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that SpaceX had made a $55 million profit for the first three months of 2023, following a loss for 2022.

SpaceX has not commented on these reports.

Hofeller was asked during the conference about the failure rate for the more than 5,000 Starlink satellites launched to date — tracked by third party spaceflight observer Jonathan McDowell — and he said he did not know this data.

Massimiliano Ladovaz, OneWeb’s chief technology officer, told conference delegates it had four failures after deploying more than 630 satellites for its constellation. 

“Obviously we would have loved not to have those four failures,” he said, but “considering that it’s newspace, it’s quite a low percentage.”

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...