SpaceX’s Starlink internet constellation will be able to serve every household in the rural United States in five years, SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell shared Tuesday during a discussion on the future of the industry during the SATELLITE show LEO Digital Forum.
“I do know that my constellation in five years will be able to serve every rural household in the United States,” Shotwell said, providing an estimate of about 20 million rural households. “We’re doing those analyses for other countries as well. Our focus initially is the U.S. because [customers] speak English and they’re close. If they have a problem with their dish, we can get one shipped out quickly. But, we definitely want to expand this capability beyond the U.S. and Canada.”
Shotwell gave an update on Starlink, confirming the operator has roughly 1,320 version 1.0 Starlink satellites currently on orbit that weigh 260 kg each. She said version 1.0 satellites do not have inter-satellite links, but SpaceX is targeting inter-satellite links on its Polar Orbit satellites, as previously reported.
In terms of the user terminal, an area of high interest, Shotwell said the cost is down to less than $1,500 and a recent second version rollout shaved $200 off the cost. SpaceX subsidizes the cost of the terminal, charging customers $500. “We do see our terminals coming in a few hundred-dollar range within the next year or two,” she said.
Shotwell also said that SpaceX doesn’t plan for tiered pricing for customers, in order to keep pricing as transparent as possible.
Starlink has global reach, but not yet full global connectivity, and is projecting continuous global coverage after 28 Starlink launches, Shotwell said. The company is pursuing a rapid launch cadence for Starlink, and it’s most recent launch in late March was the 23rd Starlink launch, and the fourth launch during March.
The COO was open about the work that needs to be done before Starlink moves out of beta testing, which is named “Better Than Nothing Beta.”
“We don’t have a timeframe for getting out of the beta phase — more performance marks for that. We still have a lot of work to do to make the network reliable. We still have drops, not necessarily just because of where the satellites are in the sky. We’ll move off beta when we have a really great product that we are very proud of.” VS