Elon Musk says 2/3 of all active satellites will be Starlink within 18 months

SpaceX aims to double the number of operational Starlink satellites within the next year and a half.
Chris Young
Starlink satellites.SpaceX

SpaceX will double the number of Starlink satellites in orbit over the next year and a half, according to a new update from Elon Musk.

SpaceX CEO Musk took to Twitter yesterday to state that progress with the private space company's Falcon 9 and Starlink launches is going well. 

On Tuesday, March 30, Musk tweeted that he is "expecting over 4,200 Starlink satellites in operation within 18 months, which is ~2/3 of all active satellites of Earth."

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SpaceX aims for 60 Falcon 9 launches this year

If Musk's estimations are correct, not only will Starlink's massive satellite constellation account for more than half of all operational satellites in orbit, the number of operational Starlink satellites will have doubled within the next 18 months.

That increased coverage will allow SpaceX to provide internet to more users throughout the globe, while also increasing the quality and speed of its internet service.

To make that possible, SpaceX will have to continue its steady cadence of Starlink missions. The company currently launches its Starlink satellites using its reusable Falcon 9 rockets. In a separate tweet, Musk added that the "SpaceX Falcon team is making excellent progress – aiming for 60 launches this year."

Musk also recently stated that the revenue from Starlink will help with the development costs for SpaceX's Mars-bound Starship launch vehicle, which could make its orbital maiden flight as soon as May. The SpaceX CEO recently announced a price hike for Starlink, citing inflation, which he previously stated has the potential to bankrupt the company.

NASA's warning to SpaceX over its Starlink mega constellation

SpaceX's Starlink service is currently serving 250,000 Starlink subscribers worldwide, and the increased growth of the satellite network will improve the speed and latency of the service, which currently provides download speeds of approximately 100Mbps for users in the U.S.

SpaceX's Starlink operations have been praised and derided in equal measure. On the one hand, they provide internet access to subscribers anywhere in the world and have helped to keep civilians and troops connected amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. On the other hand, the Starlink satellites are already hampering astronomical observations to the point that NASA has warned they may reduce its ability to detect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

SpaceX has so far sent more than 2,000 Starlink satellites into orbit since its first Starlink launch in May 2019, and more than 1,600 of those are operational. The company has permission from the FCC to launch 12,000 more and it is currently waiting on approval to send approximately 30,000 more up to orbit.

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