SpaceX is planning to launch as many rockets as it can over the next two-and-a-half months in an attempt to fly 100 flights by the end of the year, company exec Bill Gerstenmaier recently told the US Senate Subcommittee on Space and Science. He also revealed that the company has an even more ambitious goal for 2024: To launch around 12 flights a month, for a total of 144 missions for the whole year. According to a company official who talked to Ars Technica, SpaceX intends to ramp up its mission numbers next year, mostly so that it could officially roll out its satellite-to-cell phone service.
“With our 2 million users, (we) need that constellation refreshed,” the spokesperson told Ars. “We’re also going to look at direct to cell communications with Starlink, and that’s a key feature that gets added next year with those 144 flights.”
The company first announced the service, which will allow normal smartphones to connect with its satellites, back in 2022. It made the revelation alongside T-Mobile, which promised to make the capability accessible to its subscribers. T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert likened the technology to putting a cellular tower in the sky and said it could eliminate deadzones one day, allowing people to easily get in touch with loved ones even if they’re in the middle of the ocean. SpaceX VP of Starlink enterprise sales Jonathan Hofeller also said earlier this year that the company is gearing up to start testing the service.
As Ars notes, SpaceX previously said that the capability will require larger satellites that will launch onboard the company’s Starship vehicle. The giant rocket is yet to be operational, though, and the company had to design an intermediate-sized Starlink satellite that can fly on its Falcon 9 rockets. That satellite is bigger than older models but smaller than the ones needed to enable voice and data services. SpaceX doesn’t have plans to roll out Starlink voice and data until 2025, though, and will introduce its direct-to-cell capability with texting coverage only next year.