Shotwell: SpaceX Could Spinoff Starlink as IPO

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said today the company could spin off its Starlink satellite broadband business with an initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market, Bloomberg reports.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has already launched more than 240 satellites to build out Starlink, which will start delivering internet services to customers from space this summer, President Gwynne Shotwell said Thursday at a private investor event hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Miami.

“Right now, we are a private company, but Starlink is the right kind of business that we can go ahead and take public,” said Shotwell, SpaceX’s chief operating officer. “That particular piece is an element of the business that we are likely to spin out and go public.”

Investors have to this point had limited ways to own a piece of SpaceX, which has become one of the most richly valued venture-backed companies in the U.S. by dominating the commercial rocket industry. It flies satellites into orbit for customers including the U.S. military, carries cargo to the International Space Station and aims to start flying  NASA  astronauts and high-paying tourists soon.

An IPO likely would be welcomed by some SpaceX employees and investors. [SpaceX CEO Elon] Musk has been reluctant to force SpaceX to endure the scrutiny that comes with being a public company and to reveal the details of SpaceX’s financials. This has left employees sitting on valuable stock, which they’re typically only able to sell during a limited number of private transactions. An IPO for Starlink might also allow its longtime backers to register gains on their high-risk investment.

Musk has always said that he would not take SpaceX public until it was ferrying colonists to his planned settlement on Mars.

SpaceX has approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites into Earth orbit. Last year, it applied for permission to add 30,000 spacecraft to that total.

Musk’s company has also been approved to apply for a license to offer Starlink services in Australia.

SpaceX Seeks FCC Approval to Fly Starship to 20 Km

Starship on the moon. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has submitted an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for communications frequencies to fly its Starship vehicle to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) at its Boca Chica Beach facility in Texas.

The approval would allow for communications between the vehicle and the ground. The proposed six-month time frame for the flight is from March 16 to Sept. 16, 2020.

Starship is a prototype of an orbital vehicle that Elon Musk’s company is developing for missions in Earth orbit and to the moon and Mars. SpaceX also hopes to use it for rapid point-to-point transportation between distant cities on earth.

SpaceX, Kepler and Swarm Included on Australian List of Foreign Providers

60 Starlink satellites inside the Falcon 9 payload fairing. (Credit: Elon Musk)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Australian government has approved SpaceX, Swarm Technologies and Kepler Communications for inclusion on a list of foreign companies allowed to seek approvals to provide communications services in the country.

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Moonaut Maezawa Ends Cosmic Dating Show

Yusaku Maezawa at SpaceX headquarters. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

The bachelor in space reality show is officially over even before it started.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has pulled out of AbemaTV’s reality show search for a girlfriend to accompany him on a voyage around the moon aboard SpaceX’s Starship vehicle.

Reuters reports Maezawa is “extremely remorseful’ over his decision to end his participation in a program that drew almost 28,000 applicants.

SpaceX Says Destroyed Starship Wasn’t Going to Fly Anyway

SpaceX said the Starship Mk1 vehicle that exploded at its Boca Chica Beach test facility on Wednesday wasn’t going to fly, despite what company Founder Elon Musk had promised during a webcast in September.

“The decision had already been made to not fly this test article and the team is focused on the Mk3 builds, which are designed for orbit,”  the company said in a statement.

The rocket, constructed out of stainless steel, literally blew its top while it was undergoing a pressurization test.

“The purpose of today’s test was to pressurize systems to the max, so the outcome was not completely unexpected,” SpaceX said. “There were no injuries, nor is this a serious setback.”

During a webcast from Boca Chica on Sept. 28, Musk stood in front of the vehicle and said it it would fly to 65,000 (19.8 km) within a month or two. He also said he hoped an upgraded variant of Starship would make an orbital flight within six months.

The SpaceX founder also talked about rapid iteration of the vehicle. Starships are being developed at Boca Chica and a site in Florida.

SpaceX is developing Starship for missions to Earth orbit, the moon and Mars. Musk has also pitched the spacecraft as a civilian transport for rapid point to point travel between distant locations on Earth.

For space missions, Starship will be teamed with a first-stage booster known as the Super Heavy.

SpaceX Launches 60 Starlink Satellites

Falcon 9 first stage performs an entry burn as the second stage continues to orbit. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites on Monday, doubling the number of spacecraft in the broadband Internet constellation.

A Falcon 9 rocket lifted off on time at 9:56 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellites were deployed an hour after liftoff.

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Elonopoly: Smoke Pot, Collect $5 Million

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk’s decision to smoke marijuana on the Joe Rogan podcast prompted a review of SpaceX’s workplace culture by NASA and raised questions about whether the entrepreneur would be able to keep his security clearance.

It also somehow resulted in NASA sending more money to Musk’s space company. Politico reports:

The space agency agreed to pay SpaceX $5 million in May to cover the cost of the review, which includes educating its employees and ensuring they are following strict guidelines for federal contractors barring illegal drug use.

The decision, which has not previously been reported, struck some space industry insiders as a highly unusual expenditure given that Musk, who holds a security clearance, prompted the concerns about whether SpaceX is following the rules.

While marijuana is legal in multiple states – including California, where Musk’s stunt took place – it remains illegal under federal law. And illegal drug use is also considered a violation of the terms of a government security clearance.

The NASA contract to SpaceX to pay for the workplace review — a modification to a previous contract to build a space capsule — also marks a new chapter in its ongoing tension with more established rivals like Boeing.

SpaceX is building the Crew Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Flights with astronauts are expected to begin in 2020.

Even though it was Musk who smoked pot, NASA Administrator ordered an similar review of Boeing’s effort to build a commercial crew spacecraft named Starliner.

However, Politico reports Boeing did not get funding to cover the cost of the review.

SpaceX Files Applications for 30,000 More Starlink Satellites

60 Starlink satellites inside the Falcon 9 payload fairing. (Credit: Elon Musk)

SpaceNews reports that SpaceX has filed spectrum allocation paperwork with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for up to 30,000 additional Starlink broadband satellites.

The FCC, on SpaceX’s behalf, submitted 20 filings to the ITU for 1,500 satellites apiece in various low Earth orbits, an ITU official confirmed Oct. 15 to SpaceNews. 

SpaceX deployed its first 60 Starlink satellites in May and plans to launch hundreds — potentially over a thousand — more in the year ahead. 

The ITU, a United Nations entity, coordinates spectrum at the international level for satellite operators to prevent signal interference and spectrum hogging. National regulators submit filing on behalf of their country’s satellite operators.

The 30,000 satellites are in addition to 12,000 medium-orbit Starlink satellites already approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Elon Musk’s company is planning up to four additional Falcon 9 launches of Starlink satellites by the end of the year. Dates for those flights have not been publicly announced. Additional launches would follow in 2020.

NASA Administrator to Visit SpaceX HQ on Thursday

Jim Bridenstine (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will tour SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Thursday, Oct. 10, to see the progress the company is making to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station from American soil as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Following the tour, SpaceX will host a media availability with Bridenstine, SpaceX Chief Engineer Elon Musk, and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley – the crew for the Demo-2 flight test to the space station.

The media availability will be streamed live on Bridenstine’s Twitter account:

http://www.twitter/com/jimbridenstine.

SpaceX will carry NASA astronauts to the space station on the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, and help return the ability to fly American astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. This is an important step toward sending the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024, as part of NASA’s Artemis program.

In March, SpaceX completed Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission, Demo-1, sending the uncrewed spacecraft to and from the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX currently are preparing for an upcoming in-flight abort test of Crew Dragon’s launch escape system and the company’s second demonstration mission, Demo-2, which will send NASA astronauts to and from the station aboard Crew Dragon.

SpaceX may not be able to accommodate all who request accreditation, as space is very limited, and outlets may be asked to cap the number of representatives they request to send.

SpaceX will provide additional logistical details for credentialed media closer to the visit.

Elon Musk to Provide Starship Update on Saturday as NASA Administrator Gives a Bronx Cheer

UPDATE: The presentation will be at around 8 p.m. EDT tonight. It will be webcast at www.spacex.com/webcast.

If you had plans for Saturday night, you might want to change them.

SpaceX Founder Elon Musk will provide an update on the progress of the Starship Mk1 vehicle live from the company’s test site at Boca Chica Beach in Texas.

Musk tweeted the presentation will start at 6 or 7 p.m. CDT (7 or 8 p.m. EDT).. There are reportedly plans to webcast the event, most likely via the SpaceX website (www.spacex.com). However, those details have not been confirmed.

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