Future of SpaceX Starlink and Starships

SpaceX has submitted requests to add 30,000 satellites for Starlink 3.0. They had 20 filings to the ITU (International Telecommunications for 1,500 satellites apiece in various low Earth orbits. SpaceX had originally filed for an initial Starlink network of 4425 satellites. Once the first 1000 satellites are up they will be able to start operation.

Starlink Constellations

Starlink 1.0   4,425 satellites around the end of 2021
Starlink 2.0   7,518 satellites around the end of 2023
Starlink 3.0  30,000 satellites around the end of 2027

In November 2018, SpaceX received US regulatory approval to deploy 7,518 broadband satellites, in addition to the 4,425 approved earlier. SpaceX’s initial 4,425 satellites had been requested in the 2016 regulatory filings to orbit at altitudes of 1,110-kilometer (690 mi) to 1,325-kilometer (823 mi). The new approval was for the addition of a very-low Earth orbit NGSO [non-geostationary satellite orbit] constellation, consisting of 7,518 satellites operating at altitudes from 335-kilometer (208 mi) to 346-kilometer (215 mi). In November, SpaceX altered the orbits of 1,600 from 1,150 km (710 mi) to only 550 km (340 mi) orbital altitude.

In April 2019, the FCC approved place nearly 12,000 satellites in three orbital shells: initially approximately 1,600 in a 550-kilometer (340 mi)-altitude shell, and subsequently placing ~2800 Ku- and Ka-band spectrum satellites at 1,150 km (710 mi) and ~7500 V-band satellites at 340 km (210 mi).

The next 30,000 satellites would operate in low Earth orbit at altitudes ranging from 328 kilometers to 580 kilometers.

Elon Musk would leverage the Tesla experience of scaling to the production of 500,000 electric cars to scale up satellite mass production.

SpaceX Launch Timing

SpaceX launched 60 Starlink 0.9 prototypes in a Falcon 9.

The 60 Starlink v0.9 satellites, launched May 2019, have the following characteristics:

Flat-panel design with multiple high-throughput antennas and a single solar array
Mass: 227 kg (500 lb)
Hall-effect thrusters using krypton as the reaction mass, for position adjustment on orbit, altitude maintenance and deorbit

SpaceX plans 24 Starlink launches in 2020 and could have 4 launches in 2019.

This would mean that by the end of 2020, SpaceX would have about 1600 Starlink satellites in orbit. SpaceX could lose 80 (5%).

SpaceX plans to have orbital launches of the SpaceX Super Heavy Starship in 2020 and could have a manned Super Heavy Starship launch within 6 months of the first successful unmanned launch. A NASA environmental assessment indicates that SpaceX has filed a plan for up to 24 Super Heavy Starship launches.

In 2021, there could be 12 launches of Super Heavy Starship used for Starlink deployment. These would launch 3 to 4 times as many Starlink satellites. 12 launches of 180 Starlink satellites and 24 launches of 60 satellites would mean 3600 Starlink satellites in orbit by the end of 2021. This would mean nearly the entire 4425 first network would be in orbit. Two more Super Heavy Starship launches would complete the 4425 network by the end of 2021 even with some satellite losses.

In 2021 and 2023, SpaceX could have its planned 24 launches of Super Heavy Starship. This would be another 4,320 Starlink satellites each year. Some Super Heavy Starship launches would be used for other customers like the military or NASA. If we assume that Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches fill in the gaps for the estimate. This means by the end of 2023, the second 7,518 Starlink satellites would be placed.

In 2024 to 2027, I will assume that SpaceX increases to 48 Starlink launches per year. Overall SpaceX would triple the launches but extra launch capability would be for other customers and projects. This would mean 8,620 satellites placed each year. SpaceX would have launch a refresh of the original 12,000 Starlink satellites, since they would only last about 5 years. Over 4 years, 34,480 Starlink satellites would be launched. This would be enough for 26,000 of the version 3.0 network and replacing 8,000 of the 1.0 and 2.0 networks.

A slight increase in launch cadence in 2026 and 2027 or a slight improvement in packing satellites would enable the full 30,000 satellites in the 3.0 SpaceX Starlink network to be placed by 2027.

SpaceX has discussed making a Starship 2.0 which would be twice the diameter of the Starship 1.0. If it was 50% taller, then it would be able to launch 6 times as many Starlink satellites. The larger Super Heavy Starship could start operation in 2028. This would deploy 1,080 Starlink satellites for each launch.

This would enable a Starlink 4.0 network with 120,000 satellites by 2030.

Starlink Business

SpaceX and Elon Musk will be made financially secure by 2023 and will have the $20 billion per year budget of NASA. If Elon has a 30X on his 54% share of SpaceX, then with Elon would have 30 times $10 billion in 2024 (50% of $20 billion in 2024). This means Elon would be worth over $300 billion without including any valuation for Tesla.

If Tesla still had any financial issues, Elon would be able to lend money from SpaceX to Tesla by late 2020 or 2021. Elon used Tesla to buyout Solarcity. In 2018, financial analysts speculated that Elon could his SpaceX stake as collateral in a buyout of Tesla. If SpaceX is worth $100 billion late in 2020 and then $200 billion in 2021, Elon would easily be able to fund a Tesla buyout with his $54 billion and then $108 billion of SpaceX (versus about $15 billion today).

In capital markets, low latency is the use of algorithmic (programmed) trading to react to market events faster than the competition to increase the profitability of trades. In 2007 a large global investment bank has stated that every millisecond lost results in $100 million per year in lost opportunity.

Laser light communication in a vacuum is physically 45% faster than communication through a fiber.

SpaceX will start generating substantial revenue in 2020 equal or slightly exceeding launch revenue. This was based upon 2017 SpaceX revenue projections from a 2017 Wall Street Journal article.

SOURCES – SpaceX, FCC, ITU, wikipedia, Wall Street Journal
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com

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