SpaceX to increase Starlink antenna production rate

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — SpaceX plans to introduce a new version of its user terminal for its Starlink system later this year that will be less expensive to produce while also scaling up production.

Bret Johnsen, chief financial officer of SpaceX, acknowledged in a panel discussion at the Satellite 2021 conference here Sept. 7 that the company is losing money on the user terminals it sells to Starlink subscribers, which cost far more than the $499 price set by the company.

“Right now, we are not at a point where we want to be from a cost perspective versus what we’re charging,” he said. “If you can get that user terminal cost down, that’s really the Holy Grail for the consumer side of the business.”

At the 36th Space Symposium last month, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company was working to reduce the production cost of the terminals in half by the end of the year, and then in half again later. Johnsen confirmed that a new version of the user terminal, whose production cost will be reduced by “a little over half,” will be rolled out later this fall.

SpaceX currently produces about 5,000 user terminals a week. He said that production will increase to “multiples of that” in the next few months but did not offer a more specific production target.

The new terminal also features changes to address supply chain issues with some components. “We had some supply chain constraints, just like everybody else related to consumer electronics, for the last few months on the current dish,” he said. “We modified the bill of materials where we needed to such that we wouldn’t have those constraints when the new dish rolls out in the next couple months.”

While the new user terminal will be less expensive for SpaceX to produce, Johnsen said the company doesn’t plan to pass on the savings to customers. “We’re not passing on the cost reductions yet to our customers. We certainly hope to do that in the not-too-distant future.”