SpaceX’s Starlink internet business could one day be spun off into a separate company and taken public, giving mainstream investors a chance to buy a coveted piece of Elon Musk’s rocket venture.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s chief operating officer, told a group of investors during a recent event in Miami that Starlink is the “right kind of business” for such a move, according to a Bloomberg report that was confirmed by CNN Business. Shotwell did not say when such a move could happen, and a spokesperson declined to comment.
SpaceX is making an unprecedented push to build a constellation of hundreds of satellites that could provide broadband to customers in coming months.
The company launched its fourth batch of internet-beaming Starlink satellites last week. As many as 22 additional Starlink launches are lined up for this year, potentially growing the constellation to more than 1,500 satellites.
Starlink says it will blanket the planet in internet connectivity, a feat that could bring in billions of dollars in annual revenue.
Musk has said he hopes to use the expected influx of cash from Starlink to help fund development of Starship, a gargantuan rocket that could be capable of ferrying groups of people to Mars. Early prototypes of the vehicle are already under construction at SpaceX facilities in Texas.
If Starlink is spun off into a separate, publicly traded venture, SpaceX’s core business would likely remain private. The company’s duties include launching satellites into space, as well as ferrying cargo — and soon astronauts, the company hopes — to the International Space Station via contracts with NASA.
Shotwell had previously suggested that SpaceX as a whole would not go public until the company accomplishes its more ambitious goals, including its Mars settlement. SpaceX has so far shied away from an IPO even as it has ballooned to a $30 billion-plus valuation.
SpaceX has so far had no issues raising money: The company was able to bring in more than $1 billion in financing over the course of just one year.
Still, questions remain about whether Starlink will become as successful as executives hope.
The price of building and launching the satellites will likely run as high as $10 billion, according to one early estimate from the company. There are also technical hurdles, such as how to build affordable user terminals. Starlink customers will need these user terminals, which will use complex antennas, to set up usable broadband connections at their homes or offices.