Though he's estimating that it will be several years in the future, SpaceX founder Elon Musk says space satellite internet company Starlink will eventually go public, prioritizing small retail investors.
The goal of taking Starlink public came into focus amid comments Musk made over Twitter about his plans to spin off the Starlink program from SpaceX and eventually file for IPO, "once [he] can predict cash flow reasonably well." The internet-focused satellite company has also expanded the focus of its beta program and is making headlines in 2022 for coming to Ukraine's aid as the country comes under attack by Russia.
What is SpaceX's Starlink?
SpaceX is a private American space travel company founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Starlink represents Musk’s push to provide internet broadband from space. According to The Next Web, he aims to send about 12,000 satellites into low orbit by the year 2025. Providing high-speed internet worldwide is a part of this goal.
So far, SpaceX has launched more than 1,000 Starlink satellites. According to its most recent FCC filings, Starlink has more than 10,000 users in its pilot program in the U.S., which costs $99 per month in addition to a $499 startup kit, shipping, and taxes and fees.
Musk and Starlink face competition from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is working on Project Kuiper, a $10 billion space internet project. Bezos has secured FCC approval for 3,236 internet satellites but hasn’t launched any yet. Another competitor is London-based OneWeb. The U.K. government paid $500 million to have a 45 percent stake in OneWeb in June 2021.
The SpaceX Starlink beta launch has gone from private to public
Musk told reporters in May 2020 that Starlink had the potential to bring in $30 billion per year, which is around 10 times the highest annual revenue projected from its core rocket business. And in June 2021, The Motley Fool reported that Starlink was bringing in steady income with its launches. This is “helping advance the company's goal of establishing a space-based communications network that could be used in future efforts to get to the moon and beyond.”
In Aug. 2020, CNBC reported that close to 700,000 individuals had expressed interest in the Starlink internet service. Private beta testing began that summer, and public beta testing began to roll out in Oct. 2020, with an expansion into parts of Canada and the U.K. in January 2021.
Further international expansion seems to be in the works, with records showing Starlink has registered subsidiaries in at least 15 other countries throughout Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, as well as the Philippines and South Africa. The company has also made headlines for becoming active in Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.
Musk activates Starlink satellite service in Ukraine
In Feb. 2022, Russia's invasion of Ukraine prompted Ukrainian vice PM Mykhailo Fedorov to tweet to Elon Musk: "While your rockets successfully land from space — Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people!" The invasion has left much of the nation without Internet service. Within hours, Musk tweeted in response that Starlink was active in Ukraine.
There is no Starlink IPO date in sight—yet
As TNW reported, citing Bloomberg in Feb. 2020, SpaceX operations chief Gwynne Shotwell said, “Right now, we are a private company, but Starlink is the right kind of business that we can go ahead and take public.” The Starlink IPO is still several years off, though, as it will take billions in investments to establish the satellite constellation.
“Every new satellite constellation in history has gone bankrupt," Musk recently tweeted, justifying the high cost of the Starlink beta. "We hope to be the first that does not.”
On Sept 28, 2020, Musk referred to the public market’s dislike for “erratic cash flow.” In June 2021, he reiterated that the company would need to achieve predictable cash flow before going public.
Can I buy Starlink stock?
Starlink isn't publicly traded yet. However, as Reuters reports, Musk has claimed to be “a huge fan of small retail investors” and stated that they'll receive top priority when the company does go public.