SpaceX opens Starlink satellite internet pre-orders to the public

Signups are partly restricted, however, and orders could take months.

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SpaceX’s Starlink is taking another small step towards expanding its public beta test by opening up pre-orders to budding customers. Whereas previously you could register your interest for the chance to sign up to the satellite internet service, entering your details now gives you the ability to put down a $99 deposit. You’ll then get a target coverage date of either 2021 or 2022 based on your location, along with the ability to pay via credit card (no Bitcoin here, we’re afraid).

Additional charges include $499 for the Starlink Kit, including a Wi-Fi router and dish, and extras for shipping and tax. The small print states that preorders are fully refundable and can take upwards of six months to fulfill, adding that “placing a deposit does not guarantee service.”

Starlink’s public beta test began late last year for people in the US, Canada and the UK, with more than 10,000 customers already using the service in the span of three months, according to a SpaceX FCC filing. The same document, which seeks designation for the company as an eligible telecommunications carrier, also revealed that SpaceX has more than 1,000 satellites in orbit. The aim is to build a network of tiny satellites that can beam broadband internet to hard-to-reach locations where getting decent speeds can be tricky due to a lack of ground infrastructure.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk has emphasized that the cost-intensive project could be spun off into its own entity via an IPO. Given the high valuation of Musk’s Tesla as a public company, a market floatation could give the satellite firm the ability to better finance its operations. But first, Starlink needs to complete the arduous task of assembling its constellation, meaning an IPO could still be a way off.

“SpaceX needs to pass through a deep chasm of negative cash flow over the next year or so to make Starlink financially viable,” Musk said in a recent tweet. “Every new satellite constellation in history has gone bankrupt. We hope to be the first that does not.”

He continued in a separate tweet: “Once we can predict cash flow reasonably well, Starlink will IPO.”