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The backstory: In 2018, Elon Musk's SpaceX launched a groundbreaking project called Starlink with the aim of revolutionizing global internet access. The idea was to deploy 42,000 satellites into low Earth orbit, a venture that has already seen over 4,800 satellites launched through 109 missions.
Musk once dropped a hint that there's a limit to what the rocket launch biz can make, while Starlink's growth seems to have no bounds. In fact, he suggested it could eventually generate an annual revenue of up to US$30 billion. Musk even expressed the possibility of taking Starlink public once it becomes more stable and well-funded. But the company isn't the only player in this game. There are other big giants working on similar projects like OneWeb, Blue Origin's Project Kuiper and the EU's IRIS² constellation.
More recently: Just a few months ago, Starlink reached a major milestone, serving over 2 million active customers in 60 countries with its space-based internet service. While the specific financial details are private, Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, said that the business had a cash flow-positive quarter. Then, Musk confirmed the news on his social media platform X (previously Twitter), saying Starlink had reached cash flow breakeven, meaning its revenue now covers its expenses.
The development: Insiders say SpaceX is expected to generate around US$9 billion in revenue this year, covering both its rocket launch and Starlink businesses, according to Bloomberg. Looking ahead to 2024, it's estimated that SpaceX's sales will soar to approximately US$15 billion.
Now, let's talk Starlink. These sources say that Starlink's sales are predicted to outperform the rocket launch business soon, especially as it expands into more global regions.
Now, if we talk earnings, SpaceX is reportedly all set to rake in more than US$3 billion, excluding a few items. And in the coming year, Starlink's sales are projected to surge past US$10 billion.
“It is not implausible to get this number (a few million) to make the system not to go bankrupt. But this is not enough to justify the valuation of SpaceX,” said TMF Associates president, analyst Tim Farrar. “The more Elon talks up that he is going to invest tens of billions, the harder it becomes for other people. Obviously, that’s the big part of Musk’s objective: to limit competition."
“We will probably IPO Starlink, but only several years in the future when revenue growth is smooth & predictable,” said Elon Musk on Twitter in 2020. “Public market does not like erratic cash flow haha.”
“The cash flow from those operations basically pay for our development. Where it falls short, we take external investment,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, in February.