SpaceX‘s internet-from-space project Starlink sent 60 new satellites into low-orbit without any issues on Wednesday, bringing the total number of its satellites to 420.
Elon Musk was quick to laud Starlink’s success with a tweet, complete with satellite and winky face emoji.
There are now 420 operational Starlink satellites 🛰 😉
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 22, 2020
Elon’s happiness is totally understandable, given that the Falcon 9 rocket that was carrying the satellites actually stuck the landing this time, after failing to do so on two previous missions.
The tweet also references the “taking Tesla private at $420” controversy of August 2018, which led to Elon Musk’s ousting as Tesla chairman and a $20 million fine.
Starlink is now ‘initially operational
Starlink project is the embodiment of one of Elon’s many dreams: A monetizable constellation of satellites that constantly provide super-fast broadband to Earth.
While having 420 satellites in the orbit, it really means that Starlink can begin “initial operational capability.” That takes at least 400, according to Musk, who maintained the project will be economically viable at 1,000 satellites in May last year.
1000 satellites are only the beginning of the Starlink project. Elon has bigger plans to grow his constellation to as many as 12,000 by 2027 — which is almost 6 times the number of all operational satellites currently orbiting Earth.
Bezos and Musk, our space-powered internet cowboys
Musk isn’t the only billionaire who eyes for space-powered broadband. Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos wants his own 3,500-strong satellite through Project Kuiper, but it’s yet to launch any of its own spacecraft as it’s still in an R&D phase.
There is also OneWeb, the Canadian startup looking to provide cheap broadband to rural communities. Partly backed by Virgin’s co-founder Richard Branson, OneWeb launched 74 of its 650 planned satellites but folded earlier this year before it could offer a commercial product.
As Starlink coming closer to selling space broadband to everyone, one might reconsider the possibility that Elon might take SpaceX public as it opens more revenue streams.
However, Musk was recently forced to shoot those rumors down by the company’s COO, who’d hinted to a group of investors that Starlink is the “right kind of business” to IPO. Elon has repeatedly denied having plans to list SpaceX, said at the time: “We have to make it work,” referring to Starlink.
Well, we’re soon going to find out if it does.