Forget Tesla. Shares of Elon Musk’s rocket company are soaring to new heights on growing excitement over its burgeoning satellite business, The Post has learned.
Demand for privately held shares of SpaceX has jumped 25 percent in recent weeks, driven by fresh headlines about plans to launch a network of 12,000 pint-size satellites that can beam high-speed internet access to far-flung locations worldwide.
“We just traded some at $340 a share,” a Wall Street source who brokers such deals told The Post. That’s up by a quarter from the stock’s $270-a-share value on Aug. 18, when SpaceX completed a weeks-long private share offering that raised $1.9 billion, the source said.
The dizzying rally implies a market capitalization for SpaceX nearing $58 billion — up from $46 billion in August and more than double its valuation in April 2018, when the shares were changing hands at $169 each.
That’s still a fraction of the $400 billion market cap of Tesla — Musk’s electric-car company, which has been on a market tear of its own, having surged more than 400 percent this year. Still, Tesla shares by comparison have risen just 17 percent since Aug. 18.
SpaceX is known for its rocket launches, one of which in May took NASA astronauts into orbit for the first time in nearly a decade. But smart-money investors have been piling in amid growing signs that its satellite business, known as Starlink, might be a money maker and not just a sci-fi fantasy, sources said.
It’s a risky business, with Lockheed Martin, for example, exiting its satellite-based telecom ops in 2001. But SpaceX in August told regulators that Starlink was seeing “extraordinary demand” with “nearly 700,000 individuals” expressing interest in its services.
As a result, it asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to offer 5 million user terminals, which connect consumers to its Internet service, up from 1 million.
In early September, SpaceX announced that Starlink’s Internet network was achieving download speeds of 100 megabits per second — fast enough for users to play video games and stream movies.
The biggest coup came earlier this week when a member of Washington state’s first-responder military team, which has been using the Starlink system to provide Web access to people in areas destroyed by wildfires, gave the service rave reviews.
“I have never set up any tactical satellite equipment that has been as quick to set up, and anywhere near as reliable,” Richard Hall, the emergency-telecommunications leader of the Washington State Military Department’s IT division, told CNBC on Monday of Starlink.
Hall boasted about the service, saying it “easily doubles the bandwidth” with low delays in transferring data. And he applauded the ease of its setup, which he said took between five to 10 minutes compared to the usual 30 minutes to an hour.
Adding to the buzz, Musk this week teased the possibility that SpaceX could spin off its satellite business into a separate, publicly traded company. “We will probably IPO Starlink, but only several years in the future when revenue growth is smooth and predictable,” he said Tuesday in response to a tweet from a Tesla fan.
Small investors, he added, will get “top priority. You can hold me to it.”
Since 2019, SpaceX has deployed about 650 satellites into orbit, and Bloomberg Businessweek says it has plans to crowd the sky with more than 40,000 Starlinks, or 13 times the current number of active satellites in orbit.
The greatest opposition so far has come from astronomers, who claim that SpaceX’s necklace of low-hanging satellites are already ruining their view of the night sky. “There’s almost no place in the sky that you won’t see a satellite going by,” Rick Feinberg of the American Astronomical Society recently told The Post.
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