SpaceX Starlink is sending up two constellations of satellites. SpaceX with 20,000 employees is likely running at $4 billion per year in expenses for all operations. They will replace satellites to keep each constellation running beyond 5 years unless they are obsoleted by next generation satellites. They would do this for maximum returns when the customer base is built out.
They are currently in the middle of launching their first constellation which will have a little over 12000 satellites. They have launched 2500 satellites so far and have 400,000 subscribers and should end 2022 with over 1 million subscribers and they have added premium subscriber plans.
4400 satellites by year-end and 1 million subs. Ths is about $1.5 billion/year in revenue. 4400 satellites with $500k launch cost per satellite and $250k construction cost per satellite. It would take about 2 years to make back the money to breakeven if there was no subscriber growth. The first satellites (2022 and before) start dropping out in 2025 or 2026. The satellites run out of fuel as they need to boost orbit. However, SpaceX launch capacity is increasing and they could replace the 2000 satellites from 2022 in two months or less during 2025. SpaceX would want to do this so they make money for the constellation when they have ramped up the customer base and installations to properly scaled levels.
SpaceX Starlink will get at least half of the constellation network capacity with about 10 million global subscribers by 2024. $60-100B in revenue from 2023-2028 at a cost of $8.5 billion + $1.5Billion per year operation cost (ground and salary). The first global network could support 20-40 million global subs with the full 12000 satellites. The higher 40 million subscriber figure would mean $50 billion per year (with premium subscribers and other services for $200 billion in revenue for 5 years. This would be over 10X return.
8000 by end of 2023. 3-5 million subs. 3 million subs is $4 billion/year to 5 million subs is $8 billion/year (with premium subscribers and service. $400k launch, $250k build cost. Total system cost about $6.5 billion. 12-18 month breakeven.
If SpaceX needed to they could keep replacing the older satellites to maintain a continuously operating network. This would be $2 billion per year in launch and satellite costs and $2 billion per year in operating costs. The $4 billion per year would keep a 20-40 million subscriber and $30-50 billion per year business operating indefinitely.
GEN 2 Starlink
The 30,000 satellites are the GEN 2 Starlink satellites. This would have the bandwidth capacity to service over 200 million global customers.
Gen 2 with Starlink, 30,000 satellites go up on 200-300 Super heavy Starship launches. $2-5 million per launch. Satellites at $300k. $10.5 billion cost and another $15 billion for several years of operations. Launches could complete in a few months using several fully reusable Super heavy Starships.
5 years of revenue. 200 million subs. $500 billion per year. This would be $2.5 trillion over 5 years and would be paying 100X returns.
Getting past 5 million subs and SpaceX Starlink becomes a profitable and pretty good business. 10 million global subs and all of SpaceX Starlink plans are well funded. 20 million customers or more and Starlink is printing tons of money.
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.
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