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Elon Musk says there is room for ‘tens of billions’ of satellites, after facing criticism from Europe that SpaceX is blocking out rivals in orbit

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Susan Walsh/AP

  • Elon Musk rebuffed claims that Starlink was taking over orbit and blocking rivals, per the FT.
  • Musk said there’s room for “tens of billions” satellites in low Earth orbit, where Starlink is.
  • It comes after the head of the European Space Agency said Musk was “making the rules” in space.

Elon Musk has pushed back on claims from the European Space Agency that SpaceX was blocking out rivals in space, saying there was room for “tens of billions” of satellites in orbit.

In an interview with The Financial Times, the CEO likened the number of satellites flying in low Earth orbit (LEO) to having two billion cars and trucks on Earth.

Given that orbital “shells” are bigger than the Earth’s surface, “that would imply room for tens of billions of satellites,” Musk told the FT.

“A couple of thousand satellites is nothing. It’s like, hey, here’s a couple of thousand of cars on Earth — it’s nothing,” the SpaceX CEO said in the interview with the FT.

His comments follow backlash from Josef Aschbacher, the European Space Agency’s director general, who told the FT in early December that Musk was “making the rules” in space.

Aschbacher previously told the FT that SpaceX’s satellite internet network, Starlink, was taking over LEO and risked preventing European satellite companies from competing in the commercial space industry.

In Wednesday’s interview, Musk told the FT that space is “extremely enormous,” and satellites are “very tiny.”

“This is not some situation where we’re effectively blocking others in any way,” Musk told the FT. “We’ve not blocked anyone from doing anything, nor do we expect to.”

To date, SpaceX has launched more than 1,700 Starlink satellites into orbit — although Musk has said he eventually wants to have 42,000 satellites in space.

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