SpaceX Starlink Mars Plans Will Become Unstoppable Within 4 Years

People wonder if SpaceX will have its first manned mission on Mars within ten years. I think this is skipping over the critical point when Elon Musk’s Mars Plans will become inevitable.

Elon Musk will not change his mind about his Mars plans. I think the expensive plans become inevitable when SpaceX has reached financial escape velocity. If Elon Musk and SpaceX are certain to be funded then the Mars plans become inevitable.

If the US government and NASA decided to provide funding of $200 billion at $10 billion per year for twenty, then the Mars Plans would become fairly secure. However, government funding plans can change. Mars funding would be more secure if the money was within the control of Elon Musk.

If SpaceX is making $50 billion per year revenue and making $10 billion in profits, then Elon Musk would be able to self-fund the technological development of new rockets and the Mars missions. The Starlink satellites will give the revenue that Elon Musk will be able to control to fund all of the Mars missions.

Currently, SpaceX is making about $2.5 billion per year in revenue. SpaceX will have over 60% of the commercial launch market. SpaceX will get more profitable crewed launches and military, but SpaceX will not be able to generate the money for the Mars plans from launches alone.

SpaceX is raising $507 million to fund initial deployment of the Starlink Satellites. The first 800 could be deployed with about forty Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. 800 Starlink satellites would be enough for an initial system.

There are still many huge technical challenges to get the Starlink Satellites to work. In June, Elon Musk fired or forced out at least seven managers in Starlink development in order to speed up development and testing of satellites that could provide broadband around the world. One manager wanted three more iterations of test satellites. Elon thinks Starlink can work by mid-2019 with cheaper and simpler satellites.

The use of free-space laser links between satellites is relatively unknown technology. The European Space Agency demonstrated that it was possible, but SpaceX will need to track more targets simultaneously and achieve higher data rates.

Their use of phased array wireless links to steer narrow beams to and from the satellites will be pushing the limits of what has been done.

The entire satellite network will have to be replaced every five years.

Going through another iteration or two of satellites that show the free-space laser problems and phase array wireless links will work as planned will give investors confidence.

I think the prototypes prove the open technological questions are answered will be working by the of 2019. There will be over 200 production satellites by the end of 2021.

The Starlink communication satellites will take up many orbital locations. This is a first mover advantage.

Another first mover advantage is that any satellite company behind Elon Musk will not only have to catch up technologically and will have trouble fundraising. Elon can fundraise without established low earth orbit competitors. Starlink at 200 satellites would show that any latecomers would have to outcompete SpaceX.

By the end of 2022, Elon and SpaceX will have proved that the technology will work and then more fundraising will be easy to finish Starlink.

Relatively Near Term Starlink Revenue Potential

I have calculated that the SpaceX plans for the Starlink communication satellites will have the markets for $50 billion per year in revenue.

New York and Chicago have paid $100 million per year to put a premium microwave data connection between the two cities. This shaves 5% of the latency time from pricing updates and order placement. This has a lot of value when big stocks have rapid price movements.

There would be 190 combinations of pairs of the top 20 financial cities. There are 435 combinations of pairs of the top 30 financial cities. If the top $100 million per year was paid by the top 20 cities, then this would be $19 billion per year. If the premium internet pairing for the connections to 21 to 30 was worth $10 million per year then this would be another $2.45 billion per year. Even with a half-price discount, the total would still be $10 billion per year.

The SpaceX Starlinks could save 30-50% of the latency time. This is because the speed of light is almost twice as fast in space as it is in a glass fiber. The value for the Starlink financial latency reduction should be even higher. Let us say it is double the New York to Chicago price. This means the premium pairing of cities is worth over $40 billion per year.

SpaceX Starlink network will make money by helping improve the entire global internet. They will be able to provide a high bandwidth alternative to fiber. 90 percent of all internet traffic travels over wireline fiber, even if it ultimately goes on a wireless device. It has been estimated that deploying 5G wireless speeds 10 to 100 times faster than 4G will cost $130 to $150 billion in fiber optic cabling alone over the next 5 to 7 years.

Starlink Will Be Showing it Will Clearly Work Before it is Activated as a Service

I believe the key question is determining “When does the Starlink Satellite network become financially inevitable.”

The potential revenue and the market for the Starlink satellites are not understood by most people.

I believe the point where the Starlink satellite network reaches financial inevitability is at a far earlier point than the full deployment of even the first full phase with 4425 satellites.

56 thoughts on “SpaceX Starlink Mars Plans Will Become Unstoppable Within 4 Years”

  1. Even if Starlink doesn’t work they could just as easily use 4g since that technology is well known and used, although without the speeds for automation then life on Mars would be much harder.

  2. How many nukes do you think it would take to warm the poles of mars. Then the dust storms that mars loves to brew because the thin atmospere and next to nothing to wash away the (insignificant) radiation like here on earth. The dust storms would recool the planet in no time again. Lots of nukes. Pointless. Not even worth mentioning.

  3. Kymeta arrays are supposed to be based on LCD tech, so should be easy to mass produce in theory, if you can find a waylaid LCD factory…

  4. Also, you could use a second antenna to aim at the next satellite and avoid interruption of service (and even double possible bandwidth in certain circumstances). Just like double clutch in cars.

  5. Dude, look up the concept “half-life”. Ninety percent of the isotopes produced by a nuclear explosion are gone in two weeks, and ninety percent of the remainder is gone in six months, and so forth. There are some isotopes that are long-lived but there aren’t many of them.

  6. Companies are almost never their own replacements — that’s why disruption happens with newcomers. An established institution has too much cultural/personal commitment to their established way of doing things. If you set up a division to do it the disruptor’s way, then -everyone else in the organization has a vested interest in seeing that division fail-.

    And they will see that it fails.

    Witness the head of Arianespace’s comment that reusable rockets were impractical because it would mean laying off his engineers….

    The Chinese have made massive financial and institutional commitments to ‘old tech’. non-reusable rockets.

    To develop reusable ones, they’d have to set up new organizations with new personnel, not connected to or under the authority of the old ones… and their system makes that enormously difficult.

  7. NASA should just shut down and Congress should just fund SpaceX, ULA, etc. directly. Congressional committee staffs are up to the job. NASA, less so. At this point, NASA’s main job is to give money to SpaceX, or it should be. Wasting money on their slob job crazy expensive absurd projects should just cease. Give it to SpaceX. Everything. Now.

  8. Mat… Why does Elon want to nuke the poles of mars. If he adds more radiation to mars humans won’t be able to make it habitable anyway. Mars needs less radiation not more. Think about it. Dust particles on mars travel all across the planet. Add nuclear radiation even on the poles then it gets everywhere. In 2019 I will send my concept plans to the canadian space agency for several robots that will help in the ability to increase the temperature of mars. If that doesn’t work then you can use my robots for nuke target practice. Nuke that idea Elon. Plus dust storms will re cover any nuked area that melts and then you’ll have frozen radiated mud. Anyone else like the taste of radioactive water. Don’t go to mars if you have ideas like that. Think of sustainable ideas for mars not destainable ideas.

  9. Mat… Brian do you know if the insite lander that is going to dig down 16 feet to record mars temperature. If at the end of the drill with the temperature probe. Does it have a sensor to record radiation levels 16 feet under. Wonder if 16 feet is enough to shield against radiation there. If humans want to go there it would be nice to know. I know your information gather is substantial. If you or anyone else knows please tell. Thanx.

  10. All nations with space ambitions and all space launch companies have woken up to reusable. Ukraine and Korea are working on it. There are startups in China and Japan. China is working with Ukraine as well. All the rocket companies and nations know that they either move to fully reusable rocket or they have blimps or hot air balloons compared to 747s. They have pretty seen what they have to do or have beat with SpaceX. SpaceX’s initial falcon 9 rocket is actually pretty low tech in terms of the rocket. They innovated in areas which gave them huge advantages and they vertically integrated processes and manufacturing to take out the costs. If the competitors cannot match up it is because they are Sears and KMart and can’t fix themselves after seeing Walmart kick their butt for decades. Walmart will still see Costco, Target, and Amazon arise to challenge.

  11. There are antennas. They are flat phased array antennas from Kymeta. They cost about $40,000 now. They were used in Puerto Rico on SUVs for mobile hotspots. They are used on luxury yachts. I believe that the market of providing $100 million per year connections betweens pairs of financial cities and exchanges does not blink at $40K or even $5 million for ground stations to the side of a high rise financial office. The same thing for the fiber alternative to trunk lines and backhaul. Those go at major internet network nodes.

  12. The counterside tho’ is that “a house” only needs ONE antenna. Alternately with todays $5.00 microcontrollers, 2 axis gimbal silent-steppers (better than ½o resolution), I imagine a small parabolic reflector with a octupole at the focal point, in a dome. “The next bird on the horizon” is easily downloadable from the “current bird” in a single packet, broadcast.  

    Thus, slewing in a second or so, to the next bird, might conceivably be done for under $100.  

    Question is, for most people at home is 1 second resettling delay going to ruin their MuskNet internet service?  


    Because I wrote a program that tracks the “internet” propagation delays for our house network: even tho’ we have “50 Mbit” service, it is remarkable how jammed up the service becomes at times. It is clearly NOT a function of bandwidth: at no point are we even aggregating streams of over 12 megabits.  

    Between the Network itself, the router fending of Bad Actors, the responsiveness of variously contentious services, at times there are packet delays well in excess of 5,000 milliseconds. 

    And we have 4 people watching live video feeds, a half dozen computers, and my whole data-sphere of DropBoxes, and so on. All at the same time. In a neighborhood of over 25 ‘visible’ WiFi routers.  

    So… adding 1 or 2 seconds, every handful of minutes to find another bird? 

    No problem.
    For us.

    Just saying,

  13. Musk is going to land on Mars and tinkle on it to claim it as his territory. NASA will clutch their pearls and have to deal with it.

  14. They are not pouring everything in to reusable tech. Their PPTs just came out this year and they are definitely behind the reusable rocket curve.

    The Long March model 5,8, and 9 rockets are in development and none of them are reusable.

    Their plans for reusable rockets involve hypersonic SSTO space planes. Fancy PPTs, nowhere near deployment. Even when they show up they will not do well in the kg to LEO category.

  15. Humans are covered in bacteria. We eject them to the environment all the time.

    If humans land there, forget any absolute cleanliness nonsense.

    From my part, I call taking bacteria and life over there a net improvement.

  16. Watching the Mars series in NatGeo, I noticed a very negative view of private enterprise in space, with an ambitious CEO disrespecting pristine Mars and the brave non-private enterprise scientists making a base there, and some very liberal looking commentators saying that we should instead strive for world peace, pure knowledge, socialist-like sharing and love on Mars as on Earth.

    By how things look, I increasingly believe a government will never be able to put their act together for doing such a thing on Mars before a company does it.

    Of course, they will want to have their say and authority over it, probably financing the start and later some of its growth, placing a government office there. But making it themselves? nope.

    People like the commentators on NatGeo’s series are then like fleas over an ox, telling they prepared the field and already wanting to decide what to do with the harvest!

  17. What irritates me is that none of the landers so far have been perfectly clean, and yet perfect cleanliness is such a big thing to the government. All of the landers have a small percentage of live bacteria left on them after cleaning. Bacteria reproduce by dividing. All it takes is one to overwhelm Mars, if that’s what theyre going to do.

  18. If China is good and anything, and takes pride in anything, it’s stealing our technology. It would be foolish of us to think they’re not pouring everything into reusable tech.

  19. They have PPTs right now for fancy reusable space planes. I give their PPTs 6/10.

    The latest Long March HLV is nowhere near reusable and the joke is on China as their HLV was meant to compete with SLS.

  20. China will be concerned enough with the possibility of a readily available unfiltered internet.

    News flash: more $ to be made in profit from selling phones that connect to Starlink than there is profit in Tesla cars in China.

  21. I’ve often wondered how “bright” a BWR/PWR is because of Cherenkov radiation when sealed and running at full power. Must make for one heck of a flashlight. Maybe Scaryjello knows.

  22. There is going to be a real moment of panic in government when it dawns on them that they don’t own space exploration and can’t do things their way. I’m thinking about the first moment an “unclean” payload lands on Mars and spoils the “pristine” natural habitat.

    But when SpaceX up and makes their own Moon colony? Fun times.

  23. My sense when Starlink was first announced was that the 5 year replacement period was for technological change and product developments. The initial patent application to the FCC had a bucket list of ideas that they could explorer with enhanced satellite equipment. Adding value to the whole constellation as it matures.

  24. And NASA/the government will want to pay for a return to the Moon way sooner than a first time to Mars, if the rockets and ships are ready.

  25. The speed of light is a constant in each medium.

    Speed of light in vacuum is faster than speed of light in atmosphere is faster than speed of light in fiber optics glass.

    While we are on the subject you can go faster than the speed of light in a non vacuum medium. If you do you get Cherenkov radiation which looks pretty. This happens in water cooled nuclear reactors which is why they glow a very pretty shade of powder blue.

    In terms of more esoteric physics you can go faster than the speed of light in a medium if you make your medium go faster than light.

  26. “The unethical, green eyed chinese will do it faster, better, more and most importantly, cheaper”

    You can’t reduce your cost to LEO by working the assembly line workers harder so China doesn’t really have an advantage.

  27. “If SpaceX is making $50 billion per year revenue and making $10 billion in profits”

    At this point in time NASA would be entirely irrelevant. SpaceX with $100 billion in profit is like NASA with a $100 billion budget.

    Mr Musk will run a SpaceX version of DARPA where he invests angel funds in every idea up and down the “colonization and exploration and mining of space product stack”.

  28. “Elon Musk will not change his mind about his Mars plans.”

    But he will divert to the Moon because it will be cheaper to land metric tons there than Mars. This is because over the lifetime of a BFS you can make 10-20 as many landings on the Moon compared to Mars (due to proximity) meaning that the amortized cost of a kg to the Moon is significantly less.

  29. No … “The Starlink communication satellites will take up many orbital locations” … is true for GEO but not LEO. There is really no “location” in LEO (they circle the Earth every 90-100 minutes), just communication band allocations are the prize of the first mover. There is no reason why 10 constellations could not be deployed with the same orbital specs other than at GEO.

    And … “SpaceX Starlink Mars Plans Will Become Unstoppable Within 4 Years” … how about “We Will Know If SpaceX Starlink Mars Plan Has A Chance Within 4 Years”. Really the same thing but a different wording of the title.

    And … “The entire satellite network will have to be replaced every five years.” … may be low estimate. With the current solar minimum the atmosphere has compacted downward so there is less drag even in low LEO. While the average drag model might deorbit sat in 5-10 years the solar minimum adjusted model might suggest 10-15 years.

  30. But these high energy signals are subject to rain fade and blackouts. Only an issue 0.1% of the time but an potential issue for micro-second traders. Also, I don’t know if Starlink will route point-to-point from one ground customer to another (I think it would be a 10x price premium service worth doing), bypassing the internet. If so then you do have a speed advantage … if not you don’t.

  31. That movie depicted Earth orbiting modules and infrastructure as if it all was on the same orbital height. Probably thinking that Earth’s orbits can only happen at certain discrete places and distances, like a simplified model of an atom.

    So yes, definitely lightweight in terms of accuracy.

    1. What Mr Musk is doing is profitable.
    2. The Chinese can’t throw money at this because they don’t have anything close to a reusable rocket.
  32. im thinking of that movie gravity where low earth orbit junk blows up the state station??

    LOL that’s your problem you are letting the lightweights from Hollywood inform your thinking.

  33. Also quite importantly because fiber tends to be in trenches that follow roads. You don’t tunnel fiber under buildings. This means that the distance between two locations on the internet is much further than the euclidian distance between the points. It gets in to the roads between the points.

  34. Who cares… the Chinese can waste money on space exploration also…. it’s just throwing money on a giant pier and burning Because people think it’s cool…

  35. The issue going forward, with both this and 5G, is the lack of antennas.
    A phase array antenna for Starlink with current technology is the size of a laptop and $2000. SpaceX has their own patent applications to try to drop the price, but it’s still not consumer grade.
    5G antennas are their own nightmare, because the frequency is so high that your own hand blocks the signal, or air itself. So the antennas are bigger, there are several of them, and they all take power. And forget getting a direct signal indoors without an in-house antenna. 5G will have to use 4G for backup. In some ways, it’s just a more expensive form of wifi.
    Fiber optics made in space are so clean they can hop an ocean without a repeater, thus speeding them up quite a bit. A company is working on this.
    So while the technological barriers to all three communications technologies are rather intense, the competition and market demand for all three is going to get us through at least a few generations of faster technology. Also, 4G is not maxed out yet, so expect a blended future of high speed access for at least another decade before things settle down.

  36. Yep. Low latency space Internet is a Blue Sky market with a high entry barrier, but where the winner takes it all.

    Having the rockets at the right price point and developing the satellites in house will give them an edge that will be near impossible to copy.

    Because you’d need to develop the reusable rockets, achieve a fast launch cadence and low price point, and develop the sats on an accelerated schedule, using the first ones as pre-requisites.

    That is, you’d need to replicate SpaceX’s history and that ain’t cheap or quick.

    Competitors better start bossing their posteriors off, or they will be left in the dust.

  37. China would have to develop reusable rockets first. Without really cheap launch there’s no way to compete on price with this.

  38. ” The SpaceX Starlinks could save 30-50% of the latency time. This is because the speed of light is almost twice as fast in space as it is in a glass fiber. ”

    Also a lower “hop” count, a more straight and short path.

  39. And China will be trusted by the world with the financial nervous system of the planet? On that point alone, you are dreaming.

  40. The unethical, green eyed chinese will do it faster, better, more and most importantly, cheaper. They have already proven this in every area of science, engineering, production and manufacturing. The only thing these unethical chinese people have failed is in having a fair, reasonable and free thinking government and society. google, we love you for living the corporate mission.

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