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Triple launch day for SpaceX

February 27, 2023

By Chris Forrester

A February 27th launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California will loft 51 Starlink satellites into orbit at 11.31am Pacific-time. The same day should also see SpaceX launching a NASA flight (Crew-6) with 4 astronauts on board to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center. The same day will also see 21 second-generation Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral at 1.49pm Florida-time.

The launches come as a well-sourced report suggests that SpaceX, and including Starlink as part of the overall SpaceX business, will see revenues this year of an impressive $11.5 billion. The report comes from Payload Space’s analyst Mo Islam who projects the revenue picture, and suggests that income for SpaceX will be more than double his estimate of revenues for 2022, which were $4.6 billion.

As part of these projects Payload is forecasting 87 launches this year for SpaceX and which will be the usual mix of commercial launches, NASA-type missions as well as launches for Starlink.

As for Starlink itself, Payload says revenues for the broadband-by-satellite business will grow significantly from 2022’s $1.9 billion to $5.4 billion this year.

However, Payload issues a caveat, saying: “Ultimately, we recognise predicting SpaceX’s revenue is extremely challenging, given the multitude of variables we’ve laid out here. In fact, we know that even some investors in SpaceX don’t have accurate data around historical financials or projections.”

SpaceX itself is staying near-silent on its financial plans and the prospect of an IPO. President and COO Gwynne Shotwell, speaking earlier in February, told delegates at a FAA conference that 2023 would see Starlink making money.

“We actually had a cash flow positive quarter last year,” said Shotwell – although didn’t specify which quarter’s trading she was referring to.

The Starlink’s being launched are somewhat modified Generation 2 versions (which SpaceX calls V2-Mini). V2 Minis include key technologies—such as more powerful phased array antennas and the use of E-band for backhaul—which will allow Starlink to provide ~4x more capacity per satellite than earlier iterations. This means Starlink can provide more bandwidth with “increased reliability and connect millions of more people around the world with high-speed internet,” says SpaceX.

These latest efforts will take the overall total of Starlinks launched to more than 4,000 (4,053) although not all have achieved permanent locations in the Starlink constellation. That will be about 3,755 when these latest batches achieves operational status.

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