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Monday, Dec 4, 2023

SpaceX Works to Produce Cheaper Starlink Satellites

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is working to introduce a new, more cost-effective version of its Starlink user terminal later this year. 

Hawthorne-based SpaceX is reportedly losing money on the satellite dishes. 

According to SpaceNews, SpaceX Chief Financial Officer Bret Johnsen said during a panel at the Satellite 2021 conference in National Harbor, Md., on Sept. 7 that the company spends more money producing user terminals for Starlink subscribers than the amount it charges for them.

“If you can get that user terminal cost down, that’s really the Holy Grail for the consumer side of the business,” Johnsen said at the conference. 

Starlink satellite dishes retail for $499, and SpaceX founder Elon Musk said at the Mobile World Congress 2021 conference held June 29 in Barcelona that the terminals cost more than $1,000 each to make.  

To lower the cost of the terminals, SpaceX plans to address supply chain issues, Johnsen said, and the company has already modified the “bill of materials” used to create them.

It's working to halve production costs of the terminals by the end of 2021, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said at the 36th Space Symposium held in late August.

The savings will reportedly not be passed on to consumers, at least not right away.

In addition to shaving costs, Mashable reports that SpaceX is also looking to boost production to fulfill its backlog of 600,000 pre-orders for Starlink. Right now, the company is producing 5,000 dishes a week.

SpaceX’s Starlink constellation has more than 1,600 satellites in low Earth orbit. The last Starlink launch took place on June 30 when SpaceX deployed 85 commercial and government spacecraft, and three Starlink satellites using the company's Falcon 9 rocket. Shotwell said at the symposium that the next Starlink launch would take place this month. The company aims to deploy more than 4,000 satellites total by 2024. 

Finishing the Starlink satellite constellation could cost the company between $20 and $30 billion. But the company estimates Starlink could bring in as much as $30 billion a year once built out  or more than 10 times its revenue from its launch services business. 

Starlink currently has more than 90,000 subscribers.

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