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SpaceX Starlink's IPO Plans Deferred Amid Starship Development Focus

Published March 21, 2024
2 months ago

SpaceX's ambitions for its Starlink satellite internet service continue to soar, but not towards an initial public offering (IPO) this year, as confirmed by SpaceX's Chief Financial Officer, Bret Johnsen. The announcement was made during an industry conference, where Johnsen clarified that any potential IPO for Starlink would be considered in the 'years to come,' signifying a strategic delay in the unit's separation from the parent company.

In 2020, the idea of an IPO was first hinted at by SpaceX's Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell, stirring interest amongst investors eager to partake in Starlink's expanding capabilities. Yet, the firm's CEO Elon Musk showed restraint, contemplating the need for more stable revenue streams before making such a critical move.

Starlink has marked some financial milestones recently, turning profitable by the end of last year—an achievement Johnsen chose not to expand upon. However, financial caution remains as the company grapples with the challenges of consistent revenue flow, undermining immediate IPO prospects.

While SpaceX evaluates the IPO decision, attention remains riveted on Starship—the leviathan spacecraft integral to SpaceX’s longer-term goals, including the deployment of Starlink satellites. During the same conference, Shotwell shared aspirations for another Starship test flight in the approximate timeframe of six weeks, although this test is not expected to carry satellites.

Starship's development has been punctuated by spectacular successes and failures, with the latest test on March 14 ending in the loss of the vehicle upon re-entry. Still, SpaceX's optimism remains undeterred as Shotwell expresses fervent hopes of achieving orbit with Starship within the year, further advancing satellite deployment capabilities and recycling the rocket and its booster.

In addition to satellite deployment, Shotwell revealed plans to commercialize Starlink's advanced laser-link technology by offering it to other satellite operators. This novel capacity for satellites to intercommunicate and relay data will be showcased in the anticipated Polaris Dawn mission scheduled for this summer. This mission, involving billionaire Jared Isaacman and a crew of astronauts, will aim to execute the first commercial spacewalk.

Moreover, the Crew Dragon capsule, destined to carry these astronauts, is set to experience the benefits of the laser-link upgrade firsthand, connecting to the internet mid-orbit to demonstrate the real-world applications of Starlink's advancements.

SpaceX's strategy, as outlined by its top executives, prioritizes the enhancement of Starlink's current offerings and the progressive development of Starship. These developments promise to revolutionize not only internet connectivity but also the broader satellite communication industry. As Johnsen underscores, public offering considerations for Starlink will be reserved for a time when SpaceX can ensure continuity in revenue and service maturity.

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