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Apart from ‘Starlink’ services, Elon Musk’s SpaceX to partner with Indian firms to produce satcom equipment

The decision has come at a time when Elon Musk's $74 billion rocket company has begun taking pre-orders of its ambitious high-speed internet program ‘Starlink’ in India.

In a major development, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning to join hands with local manufacturers in India to produce satellite communications equipment, as per a report in Economic Times. The gears that SpaceX is aiming to manufacture in the country include antenna systems and user terminal devices.

The decision has come at a time when Elon Musk’s $74 billion rocket company has begun taking pre-orders of its ambitious high-speed internet program ‘Starlink’ in India. Starlink is Elon Musk’s futuristic satellite internet service which is expected to be launched in India by 2022.

Speaking about the development during SpaceX’s first official interaction with Department of Telecommunications (DoT) secretary Anshu Prakash on Monday, Matt Botwin, the company’s director (market access with the Starlink program) said: “SpaceX is excited to find ways to work together with the Indian industry for manufacturing products for its Starlink devices.”

“SpaceX always looks for opportunities to maximise the efficiency of its (global) supply chain, and is now looking forward to working with its partners in India to recognise those opportunities”, Botwin added.

The DoT had called for a meeting with global satellite companies, which included, officials from OneWeb, Viasat, Hughes, Airtel NSE 0.31 %, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea, Department of Space, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, to discuss comprehensive ways to locally manufacture satellite communications gear and also to talk over how to go about creating an enabling regulatory regime for global low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation operators to establish in-country gateways in India.

Speaking about SpaceX’s long association with India, Matt Botwin added that the company has been working with the Indian industrial sector for a long time, buying steel and steel-tubing for many of its rockets. The company is now looking forward to producing hardware and satellite components and components of (satellite broadband) networks in India, Botwin said.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX began pre-booking for its high-speed internet program ‘Starlink’ in India

On March 5, 2021, Elon Musk’s SpaceX began the pre-booking service of its high-speed internet program ‘Starlink’, in India. The official website of Starlink read: “The pre-booking service is available to Indian users at a refundable fee of $99 (₹7,265). Starlink is available to a limited number of users per coverage area at this time. Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, of which Starlink is a venture, has already sent 1000 such satellites to the Earth’s orbit. In the future, the company plans to expand the number to a network of 12,000 satellites. Unlike traditional satellites, Starlink’s satellites are 60 times closer to the Earth, thereby facilitating high-speed internet.

Elon Musk gets Tesla to India

Besides getting its ambitious high-speed internet program to India, Elon Musk, the co-founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. had also set up its Indian subsidiary in Bengaluru, Karnataka, ahead of setting up an R&D unit and a manufacturing plant for its electric vehicles in India, in January this year.

The unit was registered as Tesla Motors and Energy Private Ltd and was incorporated on January 8. Vaibhav Taneja, Venkatrangam Sreeram, and David Jon Feinstein had been named as directors.

In December 2020, while responding to a Twitter user, Tesla chief Elon Musk had said that even if Tesla India may not happen in January 2021, it was still definitely happening in 2021. Earlier in October 2020, too, Musk had confirmed that his company’s plan to launch operations in India from the next year. While responding to a tweet about when Tesla plans to enter the Indian market, Elon responded, “Next year for sure.”

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