Elon Musk 'is making the rules' in space with rapid expansion of SpaceX's Starlink internet service, agency boss says

Elon Musk 'is making the rules' in space with rapid expansion of SpaceX's Starlink internet service, agency boss says
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.Pool
  • Elon Musk is "making the rules" in space, European Space Agency boss told the Financial Times.
  • The ESA boss urged European countries to stop enabling Musk to dominate the space industry.

Rapid expansion of SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service is letting CEO Elon Musk make the rules in the sector, the head of the European Space Agency said.

"You have one person owning half of the active satellites in the world. That's quite amazing. De facto, he is making the rules," Josef Aschbacher, the ESA's director-general, told the Financial Times Sunday. The rest of the world, including Europe, was not responding quick enough, he added.

SpaceX's Starlink, which beams internet from satellites in orbit to user terminals on Earth, now has more than 1,750 working satellites in orbit and serves around 140,000 users in 20 countries, according to a presentation filed by the company to the Federal Communications Commission dated November 10.

There are currently more than 4,000 active satellites in orbit, according to data from CelesTrak, cited in The Independent.

Aschbacher told the FT that the absence of government co-ordination and European countries' support for Starlink's expansion risked preventing European companies from competing in the commercial space industry and launching satellites into low earth orbit, where Starlink dominates.


Germany has applied to the International Telecommunications Union to request permission for Musk's Starlink to launch around 40,000 satellites, the FT reported. The satellite internet service was also given the green light by US regulators to launch more than 30,000 satellites, the paper added.

"Space will be much more restrictive [in terms of] frequencies and orbital slots," Aschbacher told the FT. He said that governments in Europe should support European internet providers by giving them equal opportunities in the market, the paper reported.

He told the FT that the rest of the world "is just not responding quick enough," adding that other competitors and regulators were struggling to catch up with Starlink due to its rapid expansion.

Aschbacher urged European governments to stop enabling Musk to dominate the space industry, the FT reported.

SpaceX didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider made outside of operating hours.


Starlink wants to deploy 200,000 user terminals in India by December 2022, as well as launch in the Philippines, Bloomberg reported.