SpaceX president sees satellites as next frontier

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynne Shotwell, talks about the company’s future financial frontier. (CNBC via YouTube)

SpaceX is taking a commanding role in the rocket business — but Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s president and chief operating officer, expects the satellite business to be more lucrative.

Shotwell sized up SpaceX’s road ahead in a CNBC interview that aired today in connection with the cable network’s latest Disruptor 50 list. For the second year in a row, the space venture founded by billionaire Elon Musk leads the list.

The 18 launches by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets accounted for 20 percent of the world’s orbital liftoffs last year, and Shotwell said she expects the launch tally to rise to between 24 and 28 for this year.

Next year, however, could bring a “slight slowdown” to a level that’s more in line with 2017’s pace, Shotwell said. That’s due to a projected decline in demand for satellite launches.

The satellite launch service market has grown to an estimated $5.5 billion in 2016, according to the latest State of the Satellite Industry Report. But that pales in comparison with the $127.7 billion market for satellite services and the $113.4 billion market for satellite ground services.

That’s why SpaceX is putting its chips down on a plan to provide global broadband access through its own satellite constellation, known as Starlink.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

About Alan Boyle

Award-winning science writer, creator of Cosmic Log, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.
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