SpaceX wants to fill skies with internet-beaming micro satellites

11 Nov 2014

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SpaceX's founder Elon Musk

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Earth’s atmosphere and the sky above are to become rather crowded, now that Elon Musk confirmed SpaceX’s plans to launch internet-beaming micro satellites, joining similar Internet.org and Project Loon missions.

With his SpaceX operation, Musk is setting plans in motion to have more than 700 micro satellites transmit broadband signals to people below in some of the most remote places on the planet, providing them with affordable internet access.

With the help of WorldVu Systems, a major satellite technology developer, SpaceX hopes to have a fleet of the smallest commercially owned satellites around, after finding a production partner to actually produce this new fleet of space-borne objects.

In terms of the technical challenges, SpaceX and WorldVu Systems want to not only halve the weight of these satellites (each weighing about 113kg (249 lbs), but also bring each satellite’s cost down from about US$7m to US$1m.

SpaceX has already established itself as perhaps the most well-known and one of the most successful commercial space operations to date. The company recently agreed to a deal, along with Boeing, to provide its Dragon 2 craft for bringing astronauts and materials to the International Space Station.

Crowded skies, abundant internet

If SpaceX and WorldVu Systems are to bring this satellite network into fruition however, the costs would be considerable, starting at somewhere above US$1bn.

While The Wall Street Journal reported news of SpaceX’s internet micro satellites plan, last night Musk confirmed in a tweet that SpaceX is indeed looking at becoming the next major player to attempt to bring the internet to the entire planet.

However, this begs future questions with regards to competition already hard at work developing similar projects, most notably, the Internet.org project, led by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which hopes to fly a fleet of internet drones across the world performing a similar service to SpaceX.

As well as this, internet search giant Google is also attempting a similar idea with Project Loon, which will bring the same concept to the table, albeit with balloons.

Both projects already under way.

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com