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SpaceX raises more than half a billion dollars for Starship, Starlink programs

Over the past three months, SpaceX has managed to raise more than half a billion dollars from private investors, money that is likely to go directly into the company’s ambitious Starship and Starlink programs.

Despite a huge amount of public focus now placed on SpaceX’s successful realized human spaceflight ambitions, which NASA said has been shown live by no less than 10 million people around the world, the company is still engaged in two extra ambitious development programs. Both are known as Starlink and Starship and are integrated into SpaceX’s fundamental goal of enabling a sustainable expansion of humanity into space.

Starship aims to be the world̵

7;s first fully reusable launch vehicle in orbit and nominally allows SpaceX to place 150 tonnes (330,000 lb) in orbit with a single, low-cost launch. With orbital refueling from other Starship tankers, SpaceX could potentially send dozens of people to Mars at a cost that could put a ticket within reach of hundreds of millions – if not more than a billion – people around the world. Starlink is no less ambitious and aims to cover every inch of the earth with high quality cheap broadband internet via a fleet of more than 40,000 satellites. Both share three main similarities: they offer enormous technical challenges, require extremely capital-intensive development programs, and can – if successful – enable a sustainable settlement of Mars.

With a lot of luck this image could one day be realized with the help of Starship and Starlink. (SpaceX)

First reported by CNBC after SpaceX amended an SEC filing on May 26, the news surprisingly fell through the cracks less than 24 hours before the company attempted its first NASA astronaut launch. Originally said to have raised $ 567 million from a $ 500 million goal, CNBC later revised its report on SpaceX’s latest funding round, rather than the company having raised $ 346 million with a $ 349.9 million financing round.

As it turns out, the original report was technically correct apart from the claim that SpaceX was aiming for a $ 500 million raise. Between two separate funding rounds seeking $ 250 million and $ 349.9 million, both opened on February 28, 2020, SpaceX was able to raise $ 567 million of the $ 599.9 million it hoped for from 27 investors. Based on SEC filings, SpaceX has now raised more than $ 1.6 billion since its inception in 2019, almost all of which have probably gone to its expensive Starship and Starlink programs.

An Earth-based view of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites in orbit. (Richard Angle)
Despite a recent setback, SpaceX’s Starship program has made extraordinary progress over the past six months. (NASASspaceflight – bocachicagal)

Incredibly, just in the last five months, SpaceX has managed to launch 360 Starlink satellites, while its next launch – scheduled for the earliest (NET) on June 3 – would give the company an orbital fleet of 475 satellites strong. While 475 satellites represent just over 1% of the space SpaceX will need to realize its full Starlink ambitions, it is already the largest operational satellite constellation with more than a factor of two. Through Starlink-14, potentially launching as early as August 2020, SpaceX can start generating revenue by serving customers on the Internet, revenues that – when profitable – can fully or partially finance the development of Starship and Mars.

Two Starship prototypes – SN5 and SN6 – are nearing completion at SpaceX’s South Texas plant. (NASASspaceflight – bocachicagal)

During the same time period, SpaceX has dramatically expanded its South Texas Starship production facilities, built and tested several test tanks beyond the pressure needed for orbital aircraft, built and tested three full-scale Starship prototypes, and conducted five successful Raptor static fires with one of these vehicles.

In short, the company has made extraordinary progress. Thanks to the unrivaled efficiency of Starship and Starlink production and Falcon 9’s low cost and reusability, SpaceX has also done so on a forest-limiting budget that would have its competitors and national space agencies recalling mistrust. With another half a billion dollars in the bank and the continued support of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, SpaceX has probably secured at least another 12-18 months of the development of Starship and Starlink with full steam.

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