Number of Starlink Satellites Exceeded 4000

Last week, Starlink, which provides internet from space, crossed two important thresholds. The number of active satellites in orbit exceeded 4000 and the number of subscribers exceeded 1.5 million. Starlink's first test satellites, Tintin A and Tintin B, entered orbit in February 2018. Reaching 4000 satellites in about five years is an incredible achievement.

The number of satellites in orbit has increased exponentially over the past few years. Small satellites, which can fit dozens of them on a single rocket, are responsible for the increase in numbers. Starlink's first version satellites were also generally sent in bundles of 60. Each of the 1st generation satellites weighs 260 kg. Although the current figures are constantly changing, roughly two of every three satellites operating in orbit belong to Starlink. This is a ratio obtained against the USA, Russia, China and other major states and companies.

Satellite internet did not start with Starlink, but we can say that it is the company that is progressing the fastest in this regard. ViaSat, EchoStar, Globalstar, Iridium, OneWeb, Amazon-Kuiper are other brands operating in this field.

When SpaceX started to use the first stages of its Falcon 9 rockets again, it gained a huge advantage over its rivals, especially in low earth orbit (LEO) reach. In the first years, there was no market to realize this great advantage. For example, while there were 18 launches in 2017 and 21 in 2018, this number decreased to 13 in 2019. There were no satellites on the market to saturate Falcon 9's capacity. Starting from 2020, the number of launches broke new records every year, with 61 launches in 2022. Most of them were Starlink missions. Elon Musk said that if there is no market, I will create it.

Starlink subscription generates $110 monthly, 1.5 million subscribers generate $1.98 billion annually. The lifetime of a satellite is 5 years. Accordingly, 14 Falcon 9 launches are required each year to keep the 4000 satellites constant. If each launch costs $50 million, it's $700 million. In its current form, we can conclude that Starlink is a viable system. Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, also said that Starlink achieved positive cash flow in the last quarter of 2022.

Starlink has plans to send tens of thousands more satellites into space. Even the "mini" versions of the version 2 satellites weigh 800 kg. The ability of these to be carried into orbit with these numbers depends on the operation of the Starship system. Otherwise, what we experience in space technologies will not turn into a revolution, but will remain a modest reform.


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