SpaceX Completed a Test Flight of Starship! The Overwhelming Speed of Development is Supported by… Government Agencies! Warpspace CSO Talks About SATELLITE 2024 Part 1

Warpspace Inc.
3 min readApr 3, 2024

SATELLITE 2024, one of the world’s largest satellite industry conferences, was held March 18–21, 2024, in Washington, D.C. SATELLITE Conference, organized by Via Satellite, a satellite-related information media company, has been in existence for over 40 years since 1981. It is one of the top three space conferences in the U.S., along with the Space Symposium held every April and the Smallsat Conference held every August, This year’s speakers included Diane Howard, Director of Commercial Space Policy at the White House National Space Council, and Jessica Rosenworcel, Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Attribution of attendees. ©️SATELLITE 2024

With the attention of operators around the world focused on this topic, several significant announcements were made at SATELLITE 2024. Warpspace CSO, Hirokazu Mori also participated in this event and took the stage for a panel discussion, discussing the importance, benefits, and challenges of inter-satellite and satellite-to-ground optical communications. This article focuses on a few of the news items presented at the conference, topics that were of particular interest to Mori,

  1. SpaceX’s Starship successfully tested
  2. SpaceX begins selling optical communication terminals
  3. Direct connection between cell phones and satellites

For a report on SATELLITE 2023, which Mori attended last year, please click here.

In the first part of this report, we will discuss “1” in detail.
(Click here for the middle part and here for the second part.)

Mori mentioned Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX, as a particularly memorable speaker at this year’s conference.

She spoke at the SATELLITE 2024 Tuesday Opening General Session — “How Industry Leaders are Investing in Growth: Innovative Satellite Technologies for New Customers”

Mori said,

Like SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, it was rare for her to appear at such a conference, and just “taking the stage” attracted the audience’s attention.

She mentioned the third test flight of SpaceX’s newly developed rocket, Starship, which took place on March 14 (*1). Starship is designed to launch 100–150-ton objects into LEO and is expected to open up new business opportunities in space exploration, crewed spaceflight, and commercial space stations.

(*1 [Space.com] SpaceX fires up Starship rocket ahead of 4th test flight)

This announcement led to a panel discussion,

Starship is a large rocket, but its launch price per unit mass is very low compared to small rockets for launching small satellites. If small satellites can be launched using Starship by loading a small satellite and an Orbital Transfer Viechle (OTV) on Starship, the market for small satellite launch vehicles may be destroyed.

(*2 [SPACENEWS] Starship could have a big impact on small launch vehicles)

However, Mori was most surprised by the speed of development. According to her, the fourth Starship test flight is likely to take place as early as six weeks from this time, meaning, in early May. In contrast, Mori said,

Compared to Kairos, the small rocket by the venture Space One that recently failed in Wakayama, Starship is about 1,000 times larger. Despite this, SpaceX’s project management is still surprisingly capable of conducting flight tests at such a rapid pace. On the other hand, the speed with which the government agency handles the FAA approval required to launch a rocket is also very different from that of Japan”.

SpaceX is known for adopting agile development in the space field and developing projects at breakneck speed, but it seems that not only SpaceX but also U.S. government agencies are learning to be “agile” as well.

(Author: Junichiro Nakazawa)

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Warpspace Inc.

Warpspace develops “WarpHub InterSat”, an optical inter-satellite data relay service. We will realize this service for LEO Sat operators by 2025.