SpaceX to send fleet of high-speed internet satellites into orbit by 2019

5 May 2017

Satellite in orbit. Image: 3Dsculptor/Shutterstock

SpaceX has put a timeline on when it plans to send its fleet of more than 4,000 high-speed internet satellites into space, starting in 2019.

Facebook and Google have plans to fill our skies with drones and balloons streaming high-speed internet to areas where online access is minimal or non-existent. SpaceX has plans to do the same, but in space.

Last November, a document from the US Federal Communications Commission showed that SpaceX plans to send a total of 4,425 internet-beaming satellites into orbit.

At that time however, details were scarce, with little known as to when the company actually planned on achieving this.

Now, according to CNBC, the company’s vice-president of satellite government affairs, Patricia Cooper, has spoken in front of the senate committee on commerce, science and technology to give a timeline of its plans.

Cooper said at the hearing that the first prototype satellite will launch before the end of this year, with an updated prototype launching early in 2018.

SpaceX then plans to begin its full programme in 2019, with the remaining satellites to be launched by 2024.

When the 4,425 satellites are functional, they will operate across 83 orbital planes between 1,110km and 1,325km above the Earth.

Boosting US as well

The satellites will be launched aboard the company’s Falcon 9 rockets, which have proven themselves to capable of take off and land for re-use.

Cooper also made some interesting comments about the satellites’ use in the future, suggesting that these satellites are not just for the developing world, as planned by rivals Google and Facebook, but the home market as well.

She argued that the US does not fare well in comparison with other developed nations, and that the SpaceX satellites could help make the market better and more competitive.

She further explained that, with the addition of some infrastructure on the ground, demand for connectivity can be responded to in real time, “placing capacity where it is most needed and directing energy away from areas where it might cause interference to other systems, either in space or on the ground”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic