Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting for a Starlink IPO

Investors have long wanted a chance to invest in Space Exploration Technologies, Elon Musk’s pioneering space company. SpaceX has no plans to IPO itself anytime in the foreseeable future, but … what about Starlink? If we can’t invest in SpaceX, will Musk at least give us a chance to invest in his broadband internet from space subsidiary?

That’s an excellent question — but you may not like the answer.

Image source: SpaceX.

Waiting with anticipation

Remember the old Heinz ketchup commercial “Anticipation”? Waiting for Starlink to IPO is kind of like that. As far back as 2019, Musk confirmed that he was contemplating a Starlink IPO. Back then, the plan was to IPO Starlink in perhaps three years (i.e., 2022). Here we are in 2022, though, and now he’s saying that an IPO is still another two or three years away.

This we learned when, last week, Musk told SpaceX employees that he’s not sure exactly when Starlink will IPO, “but maybe it will be like — I don’t know, just guessing — three or four years from now.”  

Musk has previously confided that he doesn’t want to IPO Starlink until “revenue is reasonably predictable.” In an audio recording of last week’s presentation, obtained by CNBC, he repeated that condition and added that Starlink’s business needs to be “smooth sailing” before he opens it for IPO.  

Space internet math

How close is Starlink to smooth sailing? At last report, SpaceX had launched some 2,700 Starlink satellites into orbit, of which perhaps 2,300 are believed to be still operational — roughly one-sixth of the way to its goal of getting 12,000 satellites up there.  

In a post on Twitter last week, Musk confirmed that these satellites are currently servicing nearly 500,000 users spread across 32 countries — including 15,000 Starlink terminals provided to Ukraine. Musk also confirmed that Starlink’s next big step will be to produce a “v2.0” version of the communications satellite and deliver it to orbit via a special…

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