Revenue from Starlink, SpaceX’s satellite-based internet system, reached $1.4 billion in 2022, according to documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which is a huge jump over 2021, but short of what the company and billionaire CEO Elon Musk want it to be—news that comes as Musk faces controversy for his handling of Starlink during the Ukraine war.
Last year’s revenue is over a billion dollars higher than 2021, when Starlink generated $222 million, according to the Journal.
The documents reportedly showed that Starlink lost money last year but was slightly profitable in the first three months of 2023.
A 2015 presentation given to investors that was also obtained by the Journal predicted the internet system would bring the company almost $12 billion in revenue and $7 billion in operating profit in 2022.
Subscriber numbers are also below initial expectations: SpaceX said towards the end of 2022 that Starlink has more than one million active subscribers, which is a far cry from the 20 million subscribers that the 2015 presentation had projected it would have.
Forbes has reached out to SpaceX for comment.
Starlink’s beta launched in 2020. The internet system uses a global network of over 4,000 satellites to provide users around the world with internet access. While SpaceX is most known for its rocketships and the lofty goal of putting humans on Mars, Starlink represents a huge chunk of the company’s cash flow to pay for expensive plans like interplanetary travel. Euroconsult, a space and satellite industry analysis firm, projects that it will represent upwards of 40% of the company’s revenue, or $3.2 billion, in 2023.
We estimate Musk’s net worth at $267.6 billion, mostly due to his stakes in Tesla and SpaceX, making him the wealthiest person on Earth.
Starlink has been the center of controversy recently after a new Musk biography, released Tuesday, revealed that Musk used the internet service to intervene in the war between Russia and Ukraine. At the onset of that war in early 2022, SpaceX sent Ukrainian forces Starlink terminals, and the internet system has become vital for the military as it allows frontline soldiers to communicate with commanders further away from the fighting, even as Russian attacks take out on-ground communications infrastructure. Musk reportedly denied access to Starlink during a Ukrainian operation that attempted a submarine drone strike—but failed because the military lost connectivity with the drone—on a Russian naval fleet in the Black Sea, according to the book. He reportedly did so out of fear that the attack would be seen as a “mini-Pearl Harbor” that inspires nuclear retaliation from Russia. Musk denied turning off any existing service last week, but said he declined a request from Ukraine to extend service to Crimea. The book’s author Walter Isaacson tweeted: “To clarify on the Starlink issue: the Ukrainians THOUGHT coverage was enabled all the way to Crimea, but it was not. They asked Musk to enable it for their drone sub attack on the Russian fleet. Musk did not enable it, because he thought, probably correctly, that would cause a major war.”
Starlink Surges But Still Isn’t Meeting SpaceX’s Goals, Documents Show (The Wall Street Journal)
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