Categories: Astronomy

SpaceX is Thinking of Spinning Off Starlink and Taking it Public

In May of 2019, SpaceX launched the first batch of satellites that will make up its Starlink constellation, thus delivering on Musk’s promise to provide broadband internet access to the whole world. Since then, the company has conducted several launches of upgraded satellites with the intent of creating a constellation of 1,584 by 2024 and 2,200 by 2027.

According to the latest statements made by Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s President and Chief Operations Officer (COO), the company is considering spinning off Starlink and making it a publicly-traded company in the coming years. The announcement was made on Thursday, Feb. 6th, at a private investor event hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Miami.

This move would give the public and investors a chance to buy into one of SpaceX’s most high-profile and auspicious operations, one which Musk has been keeping close to his chest until now. To date, the company has deployed a total of 240 satellites to a low orbit of 550 kilometers (340 mi) and hopes to begin offering internet services to customers by this summer.

An artist’s conception of Starlink in orbit. Credit: SpaceX

As Shotwell said during the course of the event:

“Right now, we are a private company, but Starlink is the right kind of business that we can go ahead and take public. That particular piece is an element of the business that we are likely to spin out and go public.”

Until now, investors have had limited ways of owning a piece of SpaceX, which is currently the most-valued commercial aerospace company in the US. In addition to being the leading developer of reusable rockets, SpaceX also executes lucrative launch contracts with NASA, the US Air Force, delivers cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) and will start sending astronauts there as well (with the Crew Dragon).

However, Musk has indicated in the past that SpaceX will not go public until he can begin conducting regular missions to Mars using the Starship and Super Heavy launch system. Starlink, meanwhile, is currently valuated at $33 billion based on the prospect of it providing high-speed internet access to the entire world.

A Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral. Credit: SpaceX

While it is only able to provide services for customers in higher latitudes right now, Shotwell claims with an additional four launches by the end of 2020, they will be able to provide global coverage. “This is going to turn SpaceX into a company that is providing service to consumers, which we are excited about,” she said, adding that the cost would be “less than what you are paying now for about five to 10 times the speed you are getting.”

In the coming years, SpaceX intends to create a constellation consisting of 12,000 internet satellites. According to recent filings made with the International Telecommunication Union, SpaceX intends to grow this constellation by adding up to 30,000 more. Several other companies are either providing satellite internet services or hope to get in on the business in the coming years (like Amazon).

Further Reading: CNBC, Bloomberg

Matt Williams

Matt Williams is a space journalist and science communicator for Universe Today and Interesting Engineering. He's also a science fiction author, podcaster (Stories from Space), and Taekwon-Do instructor who lives on Vancouver Island with his wife and family.

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