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SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service crossed a milestone after the company revealed that Starlink now has more than 1 million active subscribers. SpaceX opened the service to the public in 2020 and allowed orders two months later in 2021. Since then, the company has been rapidly building its portfolio by performing regular launches of the Falcon 9 rocket. At the same time, it has also upgraded its satellites, bringing the ability to Falcon 9 will be able to launch fewer satellites than it previously could during the early launch days. Today’s news comes after a turbulent year for Starlink that saw slow user speeds and convergence controversy in Ukraine.
Starlink adds 300,000 new subscribers in just 2 months
At the beginning of this year, or in February, Starlink had 250,000 subscribers and throughout 2022, that number has been growing. The last update on subscriber counts, prior to today’s announcement, came from SpaceX’s Vice President of Commercial Sales, Mr. Jonathan Hoeffler. Mr Hoeffler revealed at an event in September that his company was now providing service to 700,000 subscribers at the time, with deep price cuts in countries like Brazil driving more people to sign up for satellite internet.
Since then, or exactly three months later, the number of active Starlink subscribers has now passed one million. This comes Straight from SpaceX, who shared the details on his Twitter page along with a short video. Creating a constellation of satellites requires large investments, which include launch costs and costs for setting up production machines to manufacture equipment. These costs are supplemented by the operating costs of the network itself, and in general, these are all obstacles that are difficult to overcome, as SpaceX President Elon Musk has said on multiple occasions.
Those costs are still the beginning for SpaceX, which has launched just over 3,000 satellites for a constellation that aims to put tens of thousands of them into orbit. So far, the next Constellation stage, which will include second-generation satellites, will be launched by SpaceX’s Starship rocket.
The jury’s still out on that one, however, as some whispers suggest that SpaceX may be configuring the second generation of spacecraft to launch with the Falcon 9 instead. The Falcon 9 is the most reliable rocket ever launched in human history. SpaceX’s most recent launch, which saw another 54 satellites put into orbit, was done with a booster that has now flown an impressive 15 times.
Initially, SpaceX planned to use the Falcon 9 only for Gen2 satellites, but changed its plans earlier this year when it submitted a modification request to the FCC. This application was heavily criticized by the company’s competitors, who likened it to an entirely new application in its own right. SpaceX defended the move by emphasizing that the plans were an either/or scenario, and later decided to commit only to the Starship for launching the new spacecraft.
Starship is currently under development in Boca Chica, Texas – as teams rush to conduct a crucial orbital test flight that will demonstrate the operational capability of the rocket. However, that flight may not take place until the end of the first quarter of 2023, especially since the Starship has to be human-classified early due to its central role in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Artemis program. A custom rocket stage variant will land the first astronauts on the Moon for millennia, and NASA hopes that the first test flight of the moon landing will take place in 2023.