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Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is expanding its production of Starlink user terminals by setting up a new factory in Austin, Texas according to a new job posting on the company's website. The posting is for an automation control engineer who will responsible for developing software to run the factory's user terminal and other manufacturing systems geared towards high volume production. SpaceX also plans to manufacture "millions" of consumer facing devices in its factory, with the company aiming to ship to "25+ countries" by the end of this year.
SpaceX Aims To Ramp Up Starlink User Terminal Production, Setting The Ground For International Coverage
The decision to scale terminal production and speed up global coverage comes as SpaceX finetunes its systems by serving roughly 100,000 users in the Starlink beta program. Currently, the company markets its internet constellation as serving alongside traditional internet service providers and offering coverage to users in rural or far-flung areas where the costs of internet access are often prohibitively high due to the difficulty of laying ground infrastructure.
Its choice of Austin for Starlink production falls in line with Elon Musk's decision to shift to the state following a falling out with California officials last year in the wake of lockdowns imposed by the ongoing pandemic. Mr. Musk is also overseeing prototype testing of SpaceX's next-generation launch vehicle platform dubbed Starship - which is marketed as the first vehicle to take humans to Mars, fulfilling the entrepreneur's objective behind setting up SpaceX in 2002.
SpaceX plans to conduct the third high-altitude Starship flight test today, with the vehicle currently on the launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas. While the company's previous two tests of the vehicle managed to successfully reach the desired altitude and conduct a highly-complex flip maneuver, it is yet to land the upper stage Starship spacecraft in the hardest leg of the vehicle's mission profile.
Musk believes that Starship will have conducted multiple high-altitude flights, an opinion he reiterated during a video shot with Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa that was released yesterday as part of Mr. Maezawa's plan to fly around the Moon in Starship.
SpaceX intends to use the funds that it generates from Starlink to fund the Starship project as the company aims to maintain an aggressive launch cadence of the network's satellite launches. However, currently, as the company stretches out its Falcon 9 boosters to the limits of reusability - and saves millions through each launch - weather and other concerns often push the launches forward.
As it builds out the Starlink constellation, SpaceX is also fighting off competitors who oppose the system's third modification and user terminals. A consortium of MVDDS providers contend that the 12GHz frequency used by the user terminals will create interference with their system, and Amazon and DISH contend that a pending third modification for Starlink will make operating their systems difficult.
SpaceX currently aims to launch 120 satellites per month, as it finds itself constrained by the Falcon 9's payload capacity. Should Starship become operational, the company will be able to aggressively scale up its launch capabilities and move forward towards building out a constellation of thousands of small satellites.