Earlier this week, The Burn-In reported that SpaceX’s ambitious satellite internet project, Starlink, has already amassed more than 10,000 subscribers. That figure is impressive considering that the service is still in its beta testing phase.
Now, SpaceX is preparing for a public launch. The company officially opened pre-orders to customers that are interested in the satellite internet service, Engadget reports. Until now, people have only been able to fill out a form signaling their interest in the beta program.
A $99 deposit now lets customers secure a target coverage date based on their location. Those dates range from 2021 and 2022, meaning that Starlink is likely going to keep rolling out slowly over the next year or two. Starlink’s pre-orders will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to the company’s website.
It’s hard to believe that Starlink’s beta program has already been up and running for several months. Despite its relatively short lifespan, the satellite internet service has delivered noteworthy connections for its subscribers. Many claim that their speeds regularly top 100Mbps, a figure that is reportedly better than 95 percent of all U.S. internet connections.
Given Starlink’s early success, many people have taken interest in it. That’s especially true for those in rural areas where traditional internet offerings are low-quality or absent altogether. Since Starlink relies on satellites, it is able to provide equally fast speeds to rural areas and urban ones alike.
According to a recent filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), SpaceX already has over 1,000 Starlink satellites in orbit. The company has been launching additional units at an aggressive pace and has no plans of slowing down. That will only make its service faster and more reliable as time goes on.
Opening its service to pre-orders gives SpaceX a way to bring in some extra cash while giving consumers hope that they will soon be able to access the company’s satellite internet.
Along with the $99 pre-order fee, prospective customers will need to shell out $499 for the Starlink Kit, a hardware bundle that’s needed for service. It includes a Wi-Fi router as well as a satellite dish that needs to be placed outdoors in view of the sky. However, these charges don’t come until it’s time for the service to begin and aren’t part of the pre-order.
SpaceX also notes that each pre-order is fully refundable should a potential customer change their mind.
As SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Tuesday, every satellite constellation company in history has gone bankrupt—except for Starlink. That’s understandable given the immense cost of launching enough satellites to create a viable service. Given SpaceX’s launch prowess and reduced costs thanks to rocket reusability, it has a legitimate chance of being the first to defy that trend.
SpaceX needs to pass through a deep chasm of negative cash flow over the next year or so to make Starlink financially viable. Every new satellite constellation in history has gone bankrupt. We hope to be the first that does not.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 9, 2021
Based on its early success, Starlink appears to have a promising future ahead of it. That has led Musk and others to start thinking about an IPO.
In another tweet, the CEO said, “Once we can predict cash flow reasonably well, Starlink will IPO.”
It’s unclear how long that will take. However, the fact that it is being discussed is a good thing for Starlink. It is also good for SpaceX, which stands to benefit from spinning off its satellite internet segment.