SpaceX launches 23 Starlink satellites from Florida on May 28

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SpaceX launched yet another batch of its Starlink internet satellites from Florida on Tuesday morning (May 28).

A Falcon 9 rocket lofted 23 Starlink spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Tuesday at 10:24 a.m. EDT (1424 GMT) during a four-hour window beginning at 7:30 a.m. EDT (1130 GMT).

The launch had originally been targeted for Monday (May 27), but SpaceX stood down from the attempt.

The Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth about 8 minutes after launch, landing on the droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas in the Atlantic Ocean.

It was the 10th launch and landing for this particular first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description. Six of its nine flights to date have been Starlink missions.

The Falcon 9’s upper stage continued carrying the 23 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, where they were expected to be deployed about 65 minutes after liftoff.

Tuesday’s launch was SpaceX’s 53rd orbital mission of the year already, and its 37th of 2024 dedicated to building out the Starlink megaconstellation, which currently consists of nearly 6,000 operational satellites.

And there are many more flights to come: SpaceX plans to launch about 150 missions this year, company representatives have said.

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The satellites were launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, according to SpaceX.

LOS ANGELES, May 28 (Xinhua) — U.S. private space company SpaceX launched 23 more Starlink satellites into orbit on Tuesday.

The satellites were launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, according to SpaceX.

Minutes later, Falcon 9’s first stage returned and landed on the “A Shortfall of Gravitas” droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the company.

SpaceX later confirmed the deployment of the 23 satellites.

Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable, according to SpaceX.

“May the Fourth be with you,” goes the online Star Wars greeting — and the Force was certainly with SpaceX in the month of May. This month alone, the tiny space company that Elon Musk established with his PayPal cash in 2002 (and which has grown into the dominant player in space launches) reached three incredible milestones in its growth path.

21 space launches — with just one rocket
On May 17, SpaceX set a new record for reuse of a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket, launching and landing the first stage for the 21st time. For a rocket that was originally designed to last perhaps 10 launches, this was quite a feat.

And with 99.9% of other space companies out there still flying expendable rockets, it’s a feat no other company on Earth can match.

6,000 Starlink satellites
That record-breaking rocket, by the way, was carrying 23 SpaceX Starlink satellites up to assume their positions in orbit around the Earth. Coincidentally, it was also the rocket that broke a second record for SpaceX. On May 17, SpaceX put its 6,000th Starlink satellite in orbit.

SpaceX has actually launched more than 6,500 total Starlinks, but these satellites are designed to have a limited lifespan and to regularly fall out of orbit and be replaced with upgraded models. As of today, two missions past the May 17 mission, SpaceX has 6,065 Starlinks in orbit — of which 5,991 are operational, according to the latest data from Starlink-counter planet4589.org.

Why is this significant? SpaceX wants to put a total of at least 12,000 Starlinks in orbit to fully fill out its satellite constellation. At 6,000 satellites, SpaceX has effectively hit the halfway mark.

3 million Starlink subscribers
A second satellite tracker, Orbit.ing-now.com, reports there are currently just under 10,000 satellites in orbit today. This means that SpaceX’s Starlink accounts for more than 60% of all satellites in orbit around Earth. And why does SpaceX need so many satellites?

According to Elon Musk, Starlink just passed the 3 million Starlink subscribers mark, and they all want their bandwidth needs provided for.

But just because Starlink has hit 3 million subscribers, don’t expect SpaceX to slow down, or sit on its space laurels. By the end of this year, experts forecast that Starlink will hit 3.8 billion subscribers, generating annual revenue of $6.8 billion.

At SpaceX’s targeted 60% operating profit margin, this could realistically mean as much as $4.1 billion in fiscal 2024 operating profit for SpaceX. Thus, the company’s satellite communications subsidiary will end 2024 generating the vast bulk of SpaceX’s profits.

Nor will that be the end of the story. Long-term, SpaceX hopes to build Starlink into a $30 billion annual revenue business, generating $18 billion in annual profit. To do this, I calculate SpaceX will need to grow its user base roughly sevenfold in size, to 22 million subscribers.

What it means for investors
Now what does all of the above mean for investors — either investors who managed to acquire privately held SpaceX stock, or those hoping to buy on the public markets, in the long-awaited Starlink IPO?

Four years ago, if you recall, Elon Musk told us that while he will probably never IPO SpaceX itself until he’s reached his goal of establishing a colony on Mars, he probably will IPO Starlink — just as soon as its “revenue growth is smooth & predictable.”

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