CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s SpaceX was due to the launch of 60 small satellites in a low orbit around the Earth on Wednesday, a part of his rocket company is planning to sell Internet service beamed from space with the financing of larger interplanetary ambitions.
FILE PHOTO: SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (in the centre, in a horizontal position), is readied for launch on a supply mission to the International Space Station on the historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo
The billionaire entrepreneur and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc praised the mission and the design of the satellites in a conversation with reporters prior to the launch, but warned that success was far from guaranteed.
“It is possible that some of these satellites can’t work,” Musk said. “It is a small possibility that all of the satellites will not work. We have done everything we can to maximize the chance of success.”
Musk said he expects that the launch of the services revenues are up around $3 billion per year, of which Starlink is a key to generating the money that the private company SpaceX needs to finance Musk larger dreams of the development of a new Starship able to fly paying customers to the moon and eventually try to colonize Mars.
“We think this is an important stepping stone on the way to the creation of a self-contained city on Mars and a base on the moon,” Musk said.
The first 60 Starlink satellites, stacked atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, blast off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 10:30 a.m.
Musk plans to send as many as 12,000 satellites in the space as soon as 2024 high-speed internet access is available from space all over the world.
But he is confronted with fierce competition. In February, satellites built by Airbus SE and partner OneWeb blasted off from French Guiana, the first step in a similar plan to give millions of people in remote and rural areas high-speed internet from space.
Companies LeoSat Companies and Canada’s Telesat are also engaged in the construction of data networks with hundreds or even thousands of small satellites in an orbit closer to the Earth than traditional communications satellites, a radical shift was made possible by leaps in technology of the laser and the computer chips.
Musk said SpaceX has “sufficient capital” to the Starlink to an operational level, but would possible need to raise money if things go wrong with the multibillion-dollar effort.
Musk faced with other problems. In November, the entrepreneur, frustrated with the pace of Starlink satellites were developed, dismissals of at least seven people on the program’s senior management team on a campus in Redmond, Washington, outside of Seattle, Reuters reported.
Reporting by Joey Roulette in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Writing and additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman