SpaceX Will Dominate Global Communications and Air Cargo by 2027

I, Brian Wang, have a made a new youtube video about how SpaceX will dominate global communications and air cargo by 2027.

This will be how SpaceX will become a multi-trillion business with the financial muscle to fund building cities on Mars and the moon.

I go over the mass production and costs of the Raptor engines and the fully reusable Starship rocket, the Gen 2 Starlink satellite and the air cargo business.

I layout the simple roadmaps for how SpaceX will scale its Starlink satellite business and target air cargo. SpaceX cost and performance advantages are highlighted.

By Brian Wang

31 thoughts on “SpaceX Will Dominate Global Communications and Air Cargo by 2027”

  1. Yeah, unfortunately. Lots of people today don't seem to recall the days when Silicon Valley and internet CEOs actively considered government and bureaucracy irrelevant, and despised the idea of lobbying or relying on government for anything.

    The Politicians brought them to heel, and now tech corporations direct many tons of money to Washington DC in return for having input to legislation and bureaucratic rule-making.

    These days they're caught directly in the turning political gears – please one side, the other calls them on the carpet before Congress. Fail to please the first side, and that side calls them in to answer 'hard questions'. Almost as if the system were designed to keep them under the pols' thumbs.

  2. Important questions for Brian and my engineering colleagues:

    Liquid oxygen requires air separation plants for its production. Here is a list of the companies who dominate air separation plants:

    Linde Plc (UK), Air Liquide SA (France), Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (US), Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation (Japan), Messer Group GmbH (Germany), Daesung Industrial Co., Ltd. (South Korea), Air Water Inc. (Japan), Enerflex Ltd. (Canada), Yingde Gases Group Co., Ltd. (Hong Kong)

    In effect, these companies each dominate certain geographical areas. They are the definition of defacto monopolies.

    Building an air separation plant requires years of negotiations. No new plant is built if the companies listed above fear commodity pricing of Liquid N, O, or Ar.

    I estimate that demand from SpaceX for Air Cargo, as Brian has written and conjectured, would at least double current global demand. Each existing air separation plant currently runs at 90+% capacity.

    With that as background:

    1. How will liquid 0xygen be supplied?
    2. How will it be transported to each launch/landing structure?
    3. Who will supply the cryogenic tanks and trailers for storage/transport?
    4. For sea-based sites, which ships are currently outfitted to transport liquid 0xygen?

    These are not insignificant questions. All raptor engines are designed to burn liquid methane+oxygen. The infrastructure to support a wide net of launch/land sites would take at least 15 years to assemble, probably longer.

  3. I certainly don't see any path to the multi-trillion dollar revenue that Brian is calling out here. Not unless we see some pretty ridiculous inflation anyway 😀

  4. Not sure they have any more salt on the rig than at the beach they are on. I sure like the water as a flame diverter better than NONE AT ALL!

  5. I'm pretty sure Musk plans circular trains for more g, as determined to be needed, if at all. He will fix the problem. It will be only for humans to live in. It will be a small part of the Mars total install, and will hold as many as a stipulated same size O'Neill Settlement. Not impossible. But it would have to be dramatically better than the O'Neill hab, as the rest of the O'Neill install is ideal mfg conditions, far better than Mars surface under domes. A big difference to overcome overall. Also, the O'Neill people can make money all along the way, even after reaching the 'belt and becoming independent. Mars?

    Totally agree that Musk rockets are good. His Mars fixation may have been needed to see the big solution, as everyone else is either not launching much or trying to avoid launch, with ISRU. He sees a huge need for much launch, so discovered it. I watch the tests all the time. Road still open now.

  6. I'm thinking the StarShip Oil Rig landing might be something that is a lot more difficult in practice. Salt weather environments are very bad for mechanics. I wonder what burning-hot after glowing engines and steel + salt weather do… maybe it accelerates corrosion?
    Didn't the first attempt at rocketflight of SpaceX blow up exactly because of the salty environment of the islands?

    What do you think?

  7. I have said multiple times that, for all the manifest advantages of Mars from Musk's perspective, until some actual testing of the long term biological effects of partial gravity, it's premature to set that as THE colonization destination. If humans need a full Earth gravity to remain healthy and reproduce, that's it: Forget Mars except as a place to visit.

    But I figure Musk knows that. Every single actual move he has made so far is useful for ANY colonization target, and Starship will allow that testing to be done affordably in the near future.

    If the bureaucrats get out of the way, anyway.

  8. Are you concerned with technology or living quarters? If you compare O'Neill living quarters with Mars living room tunnels, there can still be some dispute. But as soon as you look at heavy industry or such, in micr0g free Space or inside a Mars protective tunnel, duh!

  9. O'Neill and more explicitly some NSS people are not considering anything that would preclude pregnant women, and all children. That is why Globus' ELEO is so attractive. No radiation shield needed. Don't know about children in .38g (please, again, not G) anytime soon. Don't know about adults long term in .38g any time soon.

  10. Orbital habitats are the way to go. You can easily control all aspects including gravity. You can't on a planet.

  11. I see Starship P2P, in the near future, being confined to niche markets like space tourism and military applications

  12. Agreed. Even if Starship flies perfectly on the first flight, and the economics were there, you just can't roll out physical infrastructure that fast. Just manufacturing enough engines would take longer than that, never mind getting launch and landing rights.

    And Musk has powerful political enemies, with the bureaucracy only too glad to obstruct him. Otherwise he'd already be doing orbital testing.

  13. US broadband prices are significantly higher than most of the world and average about $62/month. Majority of customers are in relatively dense urban areas that already have fiber. Starlink ISP is not a different service. Starlink has inherent limits competing with fiber for the majority of customers. It will help drive prices down and speeds up – but why would it dominate US market? Why would it still be able to get $100/month in this very competitive global environment? It seems more likely bull scenario is that it might get half the global customers you project at half the price, $50/month for 75M = $45B revenue, $10-$12B profit.

  14. Yeah, but the odds of actually having a meteorite impact directly effect you on Mars are still in "Getting struck by lightning on a clear day" range, it's the sort of thing you're aware is possible, but doesn't really merit much in the way of precautions.

    Radiation levels on Mars aren't terrible, any habitat could cope with them with just a modest layer of sandbags, which doesn't require any special structure to support given that the internal pressure of a habitat would support man meters of dirt.

    The fact does remain that you can create a habitat on Mars with just a big balloon and some sandbags, and the sand is already there, the balloon can be manufactured from native resources, producing polyethylene is a relatively easy task if you're already running Sabaier reactors to make Methane.

    While in orbit you have to bring EVERYTHING, including the gravity.

    The biggest consideration here is whether 0.38G is enough for human health. If not, orbital habs start to look a lot better relative to Mars.

  15. As noted in the anti-aging article, he's getting up there now. I think his predictions might be getting more optimistic because he really wants to see these things happen in person.

    And it sucks to realize that you're probably not going to live long enough to see things you've waited your whole life for, just as they start to finally happen. I'm 63, I've been anticipating affordable space travel since I was reading Heinlein juveniles as a tyke, and life extension technology since I read Harrison's The Immortalist. It really sucks to realize that I'm almost certainly never going into space, that maybe my son won't have to die of old age, but I certainly will.

    I try not to let that shade my estimates, though.

  16. The surface of that particular planet is not even remotely fundamentally safe – from radiation or impact events.

    (I'll at least warrant that Mars being smaller than Earth decreases the number of impacts, but the thin atmosphere also increases the impacter mass surviving orbital insertion, thereby increasing the severity of the impacts that do hit the Martian surface)

    The time taken to make it so will mean years of time to build up rad proof mars crete domes to protect the habitats from the harmful radiation bombarding the surface due to its far thinner atmosphere than Earth combined with the non existent magnetic field.

    Even if you assume the use of boring machines to dig tunnels it will still take far longer than Musk implies given that the boring machines do not work nearly as well as Musk projected in his roadmap for them – if they did he would have been building subway scale tunnels already, which he clearly is not.

    Mars can be colonised, but the time and effort required is going to be far larger than the assertions made by Musk – his prophesied CG Mars city is precisely that, a fantasy settlement that cannot reasonably harbor any healthy population on Mars without significant cover of Martian regolith to absorb solar and cosmic radiation.

  17. It also assumes benign taxation.

    If he opens up a new air freight market he is likely to be targetted by a new tax as a result of it which will dip into those projected profits.

    Of course IF is the salient point – anyone who seriously believes that the air freight industry is just going to completely upend to a completely different and untried format in a mere half decade is either fooling themselves, or attempting to con others for their own benefit.

    Given the frequency of Musk/Tesla/SpaceX articles on this site of late I am heavily inclined to lean towards the latter.

    Perhaps Wang should just change the site name to Musk Cheerleaders Inc and be done with it, because its devolving into exactly that from the mostly balanced science/tech news focused site I remember first following

    If this persists I'll be back to solely sifting through Physorg articles instead before long.

  18. That would, unfortunately, require at least cislunar, if not NEO or 'roid locations. The "surface of a planet" sort of includes Low Planet Orbit, LEO for Earth, as the gravity well is still strong. And, only a few minutes away. Janov holds the key to the power addiction problems you mention. Also, ISMRU and the more quicker ISM with Earth launched raw/prepared material is a much more specific term, as the use of the material is *not* "at the site (In Situ)" of the material, but the material has been moved to Space. Or brought from an asteroid. The asteroid could be "the site", I suppose, but only for convenience. Space is THE site! All planet surfaces are destined to be controlled by power addicts pending The Primal Revolution, which is upon us.

  19. Have you read "The High Frontier" by Gerard K. O'Neill, mentioned elsewhere? Or, have you ever built or lived in buildings that are subject to earthquake, tornado, hurricane, volcano, flood, even severe drought, tsunami, asteroid strike direct or on a distant part of Earth? How about solar storms or gamma ray bursters? These are survivable inside, in Space, but not outside, on the surface, totally exposed. Btw, tensile structures such as balloons (O'Neill) are far easier and more stable than compression structures, needed to fight gravity. Buildings in O'Neill Settlements hang from *up*. On cables. Try building a tall building without that!

  20. The surface of a planet is fundamentally safer. The static forces on a habitat hold it together on a planet. In space, they work to tear it apart.

  21. That's assuming regulation moves quick enough to catch up with ISRU. Once things can be built in space, Earth's governments become irrelevant.

  22. (repeat of comment on the Youtube video)

    I believe a lot of these projections assume a benign government and regulatory environment. Musk is already greatly disliked by many powerful people. I expect that if his successes continue, such dislike, even hatred, will continue to increase.

    As a result, I expect that his projects will face increasing regulatory burdens, even roadblocks, and newly-invented taxes crafted to block Musk's projects.

    Just as one example of what could be possible: In discussing how Starlink will be cheaper than cell phone towers, in part because there is no rent in space. I could imagine the U.S. government finding a way to craft a tax that, although it probably could not be characterized as rent, would carry approximately the same economic burden as rent on orbital allocations. i'm sure that if you think about it for only a short while, you could think of dozens of similar roadblocks that an unfriendly U.S. (or any other) government could put in Musk's way. This would be prevented only if Musk somehow gets some fairly large fraction of the establishment on his side.

    And another possible roadblock is anti-trust action against Musk's businesses. If he comes to dominate communications and air-cargo, there will be many people calling for actions against his businesses claiming his monopoly must be broken up. Such claims might or might not be justified, but they will occur, and the justice system could very well be pushed to rule against Musk.

  23. Five years to build out the supporting infrastructure for global air cargo dominance… the logistical support, the legislative framework etc….. No way.

  24. Power beaming is next. ISMRU, ISM at least, is happening now on ISS, incl Axiom experiments. FINALLY!!!

  25. Starlink frequencies are ill suited for direct smartphone due to antenna sizes. Still can't get around the physics of that. Backhaul for existing cellphone towers is an easy Starlink win though.

    Starship however does enable either Lynk.Global or SpaceMobile (which are true flying celltowers-in-space, Lynk being a full basestation type while SpaceMobile is more like a repeater) to build a global 24/7 constellation though (beyond their initial 5 minutes an hour IoT constellation). SpaceMobile is clearly going for big space antenna arrays as part of their solution to help deal with the distances and low transmit power of smartphones.

    Even better would those two moving to even larger antenna arrays, such as those envisioned for GlobalFi, which was to be demoed by an Orbweaver space manufacturing demo sat (think Spiderfab)

    The above patent PDF shows the basic hex shaped major reflector unit. I believe the end goal design for GlobalFi is building each hex panel unit, then joining a few of them together to form a shallow dish shape, each major hex panel pointing off towards a different area of the earth, and using a phased array on each hex panel unit focus for spot beams.

  26. Broadband internet providers.
    Comcast and Charter each have about 25 million subscribers. SpaceX Starlink with 100 million would have more than both combined. Starlink could reach 200 million subscribers by 2026. Verizon has 145 million cellphone subscribers.

    China Mobile’s overall mobile subscriber base at the end of December reached 956.9 million. A third generation system from Starlink could service 1-3 billion customers globally by around 2030.

    In China, numerous broadband providers exist but three state-own companies, China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom, have the monopoly for internet-providing services. China Unicom and China Telecom, control the broadband market. China Unicom provides the internet to the northern provinces, China Telecom is much more common in the southern provinces. In large cities, China Mobile (through the acquisition of China Tietong) provides along with Unicom and Telecom.

  27. It won't be complete domination by 2026. But Starlink will be a major player. Comcast has 25 million internet subscribers. Starlink could have 100-200 million internet subscribers and should have delivery to mobile antennas on tesla cars, planes and perhaps some relayed cellphone service

  28. Starlink taking over a big chunk of comunications seems possible. If the sats are cheaper than cell towers, they could overtake them in the market. Nevertheless, cellphone cells can be made much more dense by being fixed in place, and also they can leverage terrestrial infrastructure (optical fiber, etc), while Starlink satellites will need to provide all themselves. And Starlink antennae need to get far smaller to fit in mobile devices.

    Starlink will most likely eat some WAN markets and those in the under-served areas for sure. But cellphone towers won't be gone by 2026.

    The full domination of air cargo hinges on them reducing the reuse time of booster to 1 hour and enable Starship to do hundreds of flights without refurbishment. Basically refuel and go like airplanes.

    That's a tall order for rockets, which have to endure higher energies and stresses than turboprop airplanes.

    So, I'm optimistic about Starlik profitability and SpaceX space launcher market domination, but not that much.

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