Elon Musk’s next big space adventure: broadband-transmitting satellites

10 Jun 2015

SpaceX plans to put 4,000 satellites in low orbit that would transmit high-speed broadband to the ground.

Elon Musk, the so-called Tony Stark of the tech world, plans to build a constellation of 4,000 small low-cost satellites potentially capable of delivering high-speed internet access to devices on the ground.

Musk’s SpaceX has requested permission from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy the network of satellites from its Falcon 9 rocket.

Connecting to ground stations on the US west coast, the tests will determine if its own-developed antenna technology can deliver high-speed broadband to Earth.

Space X wants to begin testing the satellites next year and make broadband services available to the public in the next five years, according to The Washington Post.

Unicorns in space

While satellite broadband isn’t a new idea and so far such services’ quality and value for money has been debatable, Space X proposes a network of satellites that would wrap around Earth in low orbit, handing off internet signals to one another to make connections more reliable and to reach more areas.

Earlier this year SpaceX confirmed a US$1bn funding round led by Google and Fidelity. The investment will give Fidelity a 10pc stake in SpaceX and values the company at more than US$10bn.

The news of SpaceX’s satellite plans comes just a day after it emerged that Facebook has abandoned its plans for satellite broadband services.

Facebook’s plans were abandoned due to the prohibitive cost of designing and manufacturing the satellite. Conflicting reports place that cost anywhere from US$500m to US$1bn.

Space internet image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years