The success of SpaceX Falcon Heavy on its first launch was not just luck. Although this will be confirmed in 2019 and 2020 based upon what happens with about five planned Falcon Heavy launches.
Before the Falcon Heavy flight Musk predicted a 50 percent to 70 percent chance of success because of concerns over the difficulty predicting how the vehicle would respond to extreme aerodynamic stresses and vibrations from the clustered engines.
SpaceX has a 96.88% launch success rate (62 out of 64) with the Falcon 9. This launch success is with five major design changes for the Falcon 9 rocket.
There has been 84% success on landing first stages (31 out of 37). All landings in 2017 and 2018 have been successful other than the loss of the center stage for the Falcon Heavy.
There has been 100% success on re-flights (17 out of 17) of boosters.
SpaceX is learning more about accurately simulating the performance of rockets prior to launch. They are also understanding how to change rockets and still have successful launches.
I would put the over and under for the number of launch failures during Starship Super Heavy testing at two. It is 50-50 or better odds for two or fewer launches to fail.
This would mean that it will cost about $3 billion to develop the Starship Super Heavy. The first phase of the Starlink satellite network will cost another $1 billion.
It would take 60 launches of SpaceX Starship Super Heavy (aka BFS/ BFR) to launch about 12000 Starlink Satellites. Each Starship launch would deploy 240 Starlink satellites. If it costs $10 million to launch the SpaceX Starship, then it would cost $600 million to launch the entire Starlink Satellite network. It would cost about $40 million for each partially reusable Falcon 9 launch for 20 Starlink Satellites per launch. This would mean 600 Falcon 9 launches at a cost of $24 billion. Completing the Starship Super Heavy would make deploying the Starlink Network 40 times cheaper.
It would only take seven launches of the Starship Super Heavy to deploy the first 1600 Starlink satellites.
This would be about $70 million in launch cost. $350 million for one Starship Super Heavy would be enough for the seven launches for 1600 initial Starlink network. The cost is less than the $3.2 billion to launch the first 1600 satellites using Falcon 9. $2 billion in development cost plus $350 million for one rocket and $70 million for seven launches. There are some estimates that mass production of small low earth orbit internet satellites could drop to $100,000 each. This would mean $160 million for all of the first satellites. Even at $400,000 each, the cost would be $640 million.
$1 billion for launch failures and other sub-optimal Starship Super Heavy development.
$4 billion could get SpaceX the working Starship and the commercial viable phase 1 of the Starlink network.
The 1600 satellite commercially viable Starlink Network then starts generating $2 to 3 billion per year in 2023 from premium low latency connections for the financial centers of the world.
SpaceX is targeting 2022 for unmanned orbital launches of the Starship Super Heavy.
This would mean the Starlink network would have its first 1600 satellites working in 2023. The first 4425 satellites would be operating by 2024. The entire 12000 satellite network would be operating in 2025.
SpaceX With Working Fleet of Starship Super Heavies and Starlink Satellite Network
The completed network would generate about $5 billion per year. The 12000 satellite network would generate $10 billion per year initially in 2026 and revenues would grow to $30+ billion per year.
By 2030, SpaceX would have more revenue from the satellite network than NASA’s $21 billion government budget. Boeing is going to earn more than $100 billion in revenue in 2018. Verizon makes $126 billion per year. Comcast makes about $85 billion per year.
The current biggest independent satellite operators make about $2.5 billion per year. Direct TV is part of ATT and makes $40 billion per year.
SpaceX with the completed Starlink network growing larger than Verizon is plausible.
Private Funding of Space Stations, Moon bases and Mars bases
The first unmanned Starship Super Heavy would fly to Mars as part of a test of the rocket in 2022.
Once the first 1600 satellites are operating SpaceX will be able to fund a few dozen Starship Super Heavy flights for moon colonies, space stations and Mars exploration and a Mars base.
Elon Musk and SpaceX have been able to accomplish what they have so far with about $1 to 2 billion per year in launch revenue.
Age of SpaceX and a Trillionaire True Believer in Space
Elon Musk and SpaceX with $100-300 billion per year in revenue and $60 billion per year in research and development budget will drive the new commercial Space Age.
The World is being changed by a billionaire with grand vision. The 2020s and 2030s could see a trillionaire with grand vision.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.