SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has revealed the company's low-Earth orbit Starlink satellite broadband may be operational by around September.
"We've successfully deployed 1,800 or so satellites, and once all those satellites reach their operational orbit we will have continuous global coverage so that should be like [the] September timeframe," Shotwell said, speaking as part of the virtual Macquarie Technology Summit.
But the company still needs regulatory approval from any given country to be able to provide telco services, she said.
The launch will come off the back of running beta services in 11 different countries.
"We've got almost 100,000 users. Half a million people want to be users, but we need the electronic piece part situation to settle down so that we can actually build the user terminals for the folks that want the service," Shotwell said.
A Starlink beta user in Arizona, United States said service was lost after the dish reported it had overheated. The user took to Reddit to show that the Starlink app provided an error message, which said the dish "overheated" and "Starlink will reconnect after cooling down". The user noted that they were informed the dish would shut down at 122 fahrenheit. Another user had previously reported a similar problem on Reddit.
SpaceX scored $885 million in grant funding from the US Federal Communications Commission last December to bring its satellite broadband service to people in 35 US states.
But it is not only the launch of Starlink that has Shotwell excited. Leveraging the Starship rocket is the other, she said, whether that is flying people to the moon or Mars, or using the rocket as a solution for long-haul travel on Earth.
"The suborbital vehicle itself can get halfway around the world in 40 minutes … you know, you could do a long-haul trip from Australia to central Texas in probably two and a half hours, two hours, so you could go have a meeting … listen to some engines getting fired … and then get home in time to have dinner with your family," she said.
Shotwell says it "feels like the right time" for space travel.
"We were on the moon in the 60s and 70s and then we stopped going, so it's time to go to the next heavenly body, which I believe will be the moon, with people, and then Mars will be the next closest planet that could be survivable," she said.
In acknowledging that travel to Mars would be an "extraordinary leap for humankind", Shotwell said what she was most looking most forward to would be seeing space travel go beyond Mars.
"What I am most interested in is figuring out how to go meet people in other solar systems, maybe even other galaxies, but obviously that's crazy talk, but I hope that we at SpaceX starts that process," she said.