After making his mark in the global auto industry and disrupting aerospace heavyweights with reusable rockets, Elon Musk became the richest person in the world this month. Now, he’s setting his sights on a different business, one that is a trillion-dollar industry — telecommunications.
According to Bloomberg, Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has launched more than 1,000 satellites for its Starlink internet service, and is signing up early customers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. SpaceX has told investors that Starlink is angling for a piece of a $1 trillion market made up of in-flight internet, maritime services, and demand in China and India.
For months, SpaceX has been launching Starlink satellites on its Falcon 9 rockets in batches of 60 at a time, and the 17th Starlink launch was on January 20. There are now roughly 960 functioning satellites in orbit, heralding an age of mega-constellations that have prompted worries about visual pollution for astronomers.
But the Starlink array in low-Earth orbit, closer to the planet than traditional satellites, is enough to enable SpaceX to roll out service along a wide swath of North America and the U.K. As SpaceX sends up more satellites, the coverage area will grow, expanding the potential customer base — and revenue stream — beyond the initial stages of today.
Starlink will face plenty of competition. While fiber optic cable is widely considered too expensive to lay down in remote regions and many rural locations, cellular connectivity is expected to make big advances with 5G and then 6G. Meanwhile, a number of innovative attempts to extend cellular to unserved areas are being developed by other well-heeled companies such as Facebook Inc.
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, is primarily known for launching rockets for global satellite operators, the U.S. military, and NASA. Last year, SpaceX made history by becoming the first private company to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.
Starlink marks SpaceX’s first foray into a truly consumer-facing product. Maintaining strong service while growing the customer base is something SpaceX has never tried before.
Also Read: Elon Musk And The Art Of Success