A bunch of Starlink Internet satellites just before launch.
According to analysts, SpaceX is producing its Starlink satellite at unprecedented speeds for the space industry as the company delves deeper into building space-based global internet services.
Elon Musk’s company told the Federal Communications Commission in a presentation last month that its Starlink unit “is currently building 120 satellites per month” and has “invested more than $ 70 million to broadcast. develops and manufactures thousands of terminals for consumers every month. “
“Has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Starlink so far,” added the SpaceX presentation.
Slide from SpaceX’s July 2020 presentation to the FCC.
Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious plan to build a network linked with about 12,000 small satellites, to transmit high-speed internet from orbit to anywhere in the world. The company has so far launched nearly 600 Starlink satellites and is currently building ground stations and user terminals, to directly connect consumers to its network.
It is difficult to determine what SpaceX’s satellite production rates mean with the differences in the size and complexity of spacecraft built by other companies. But Quilty Analytics founder Chris Quilty told CNBC that Starlink production is happening at unprecedented speeds in the satellite business. Quilty store research and investment firm focuses on satellite communications, which he founded after leading Raymond James in the space industry for 20 years.
Quilty said: “In a nutshell, Iridium, previously holding the record for the largest commercial satellite constellation, was producing satellites at a rate of about six per month at its peak. Export, ”said Quilty.
Iridium’s NEXT satellite has nearly three times the mass of Starlink, at about 670 kg compared with an estimated 260 kg. However, even with the warning that each Starlink is smaller than an Iridium satellite, SpaceX is building its spacecraft 20 times faster.
Notably, Quilty pointed out that Iridium’s satellite was built by the European aerospace corporation Thales Alenia Space. Additionally, rival satellite internet startup OneWeb is building satellites at a rate of about 30 satellites per month before it goes bankrupt – and Quilty stressed that OneWeb’s production line was designed and built. with the cooperation of Airbus, another European aerospace giant. That makes Starlink the only company of the three to have satellites made by a single US company and have the highest productivity.
“American ingenuity wins again,” Quilty said.
On the customer side, SpaceX last week told the FCC that it had seen “unusual demand” from people interested in Starlink’s internet service. The company said “nearly 700,000 individuals” across the United States said they were interested in the service, prompting SpaceX to ask the FCC to increase the number of authorized user terminals from 1 million to 5 million.
Currently, it seems the main bottleneck to Starlink’s service lies in how quickly SpaceX can launch satellites, according to industry analysis firm Bryce Space and Technology. The company has carried out Starlink missions about once a month with its Falcon 9 missile fleet.
“With 60 satellites per Falcon 9, SpaceX is also motivated to bring its Starship launch vehicle online as soon as possible, as the company says each will be able to carry 400 Starlink satellites at the same time.” Bryce’s senior space analyst, Phil Smith, says. CNBC.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket takes off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying 60 Starlink satellites on November 11, 2019 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The final Starlink constellation will consist of thousands of satellites designed to provide high speed internet service around the world.
Paul Hennessy | NurPhoto | beautiful images
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