SpaceX President and COO Guinea Shotwell teased new information detailing the wealth of benefits that the next generation of Starship launchers can bring to the company's deployment of Starlink satellite constellation.
Speaking at the Baron 2019 Investment Conference on 25 October, SpaceX's executive directorate touched on a wide range of topics, according to CNBC reporter Michael Shetz. Baron broadcast most of the conference's main events on the network, all of which, except Shotwell, were archived, but it appears that CNBC may be the only official media outlet to receive official access.
Nevertheless, based on its reports on Shotwell's dialogue with Baron Funds / CON CEO Ron Baron, the SpaceX Executive was unprecedented and more than happy to express direct criticism of competitors such as OneWeb, ULA and Blue Origin.
Beyond Shotwell's clear belief that Starlink satellite technology is way beyond OneWeb and years beyond of Amazon's Kuiper project, it also touched on another force: many of SpaceX's own vertically integrated launch systems. OneWeb plans to launch most of its Phase 1 constellation on Arianespace's Soyuz commercial missiles, with the sole launch contract expected to cost more than $ 1B for ~ 700 satellites.
SpaceX, on the other hand, owns, builds and operates its own rocket factory and high-performance orbiting rockets, and is the only company on Earth to successfully deploy reusable rockets. In short, while Starlink's undoubted need for launch capacity will undoubtedly require some major direct investment, much of StarX's startup cost for SpaceX launch can be seen as little more than the cost of fuel, operating hours and recovery operations of the fleet. Boosters (and hopefully the pairings) can be reused ad nauseum and while SpaceX holds on to its promise to put customer missions first, the practical alternative cost at every Starlink launch should be near zero.
In a perfect scenario, the only material cost of Starlink launches should be the satellites themselves and any Falcon overhead that SpaceX does not plan to rebuild. Speaking before the debut of Starlink's 60-satellite "v0.9", SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said each prototype spacecraft cost more to launch than build, despite the fact that their first shot flies on a Falcon 9 double booster ,
In fewer words, Musk suggests that every Starlink satellite may already be worth significantly less than $ 500,000, even before SpaceX begins to reap the full benefits of economies of scale. In fact, based on official 2016 data that estimated the cost of each BFR amplifier / ship to be less than $ 4 million and Musk's estimate that Starship could reduce Starlink's starting cost by a factor of 5, the price the production of Starlink v0.9 may actually be as low as ~ $ 350,000 apiece, with startup costs of around $ 20 million.
Talking a little over five months after Musk, Shotwell revealed that a Starship startup -Super Heavy must be able to place at least 400 Starlink satellites in orbit – a combined payload of ~ 120 metric tons (265,000 pounds). Even if the Starship launch price remained the same as the proven Starlink v0.9 Falcon 9 flight, packing almost seven times as many Starlink satellites would manually reduce the relative cost of launching a satellite by more than 5X, noted by Musk.  In light of this new figure of 400 satellites each Starship launch, it is much easier to understand why SpaceX has taken the otherwise ridiculous step of conserving space for tens of thousands more Starlink satellites. Even if SpaceX comes to the worst case scenario and is able to launch Starship-Super Heavy only once every 4-8 weeks for the first few years, it can translate to 2400-4800 Starlink satellites placed in orbit each year . Given that 120 tonnes to LEO are completely within the theoretical capabilities of Starship without orbital loading, it is entirely possible for Starship to surpass the masses of the Falcon 9 orbital almost immediately after the completion of the first its orbital launch and recovery: a single Starship launch would be equivalent to nearly 7 Falcon 9 missions.
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