Elon Musk’s Starlink mega-constellation achieved a staggering success on May 23rd when one of his Falcon 9 rockets placed 60 of the small satellites into orbit. It also built on the success by saying it had raised more than $1 billion in fresh funding to help complete the constellation. Within a few hours it was confirmed that telemetry had been received from each of the satellites.
SpaceX, in a regulatory filing issued on May 24th, said it had raised $1.02 billion this year, and more than expected. It had previously talked about raising $900 million. Elon Musk said last week that it now had sufficient capital to get its Starlink system to an operational level.
The filing says SpaceX has raised $486.2 million and $535.7 million in its second cash-raising exercise this year (but the 21st Venture Capital borrowing or fund-raising stages).
On one level Musk is not being overly ambitious. He told journalists ahead of the launch: “Total internet connectivity revenue in the world is about $1 trillion and we think maybe we can access about 3 per cent [with Starlink].”
But on another level, he is being incredibly ambitious given that he wants to launch a total of 11,943 satellites to complete his overall constellation to Low Earth orbit. However, a basic service could launch with about 800 satellites.
The third task facing Musk’s team is to gain acceptance for his Starlink service outside the US. Currently, he only has permission to operate the system over the US. Winning those ‘landing rights’ for his signals might still present some major challenges.