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SpaceX plans to spin off its Starlink satellite internet business

Mariella Moon
Associate Editor
SpaceX Starlink satellites, shown flat-packed in preparation for launch.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk declared years ago that the company won't go public until its Mars vehicle is regularly flying people to the red planet. You might get the chance to own a piece of the company earlier than that, though: According to Bloomberg, SpaceX is thinking of spinning out Starlink, its space internet business, and of taking it public.

Company president Gwynne Shotwell has revealed those plans at a meeting with investors, telling them that "Starlink is the right kind of business that we can go ahead and take public." SpaceX has also confirmed to Quartz that it's considering a Starlink spinoff in the coming years.

SpaceX has deployed almost 300 satellites for the Starlink constellation since it started launching them to orbit last year. By mid-2020, there could be as many as 12,000 satellites in the constellation. SpaceX hopes to begin offering satellite internet to customers as soon as this summer.

Shotwell said at the meeting that Starlink will cost "less than what you are paying now for about five to 10 times the speed you are getting." Despite its promise of an affordable-but-speedy internet, SpaceX expects the business to make it a lot of money. Back when Musk first talked about his vision for a satellite internet network, he said the business "is intended to generate a significant amount of revenue and help fund a city on Mars."

SpaceX might spin Starlink out, because it believes that's how it can make the most money. It's also possible that it wants Starlink to become its own thing, so that the spinoff can earn revenue while the main company focuses on building rockets.