SpaceX plans to have its first broadband satellites in orbit in two years
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes its internet satellites will make the company bank.
Image: Jae C. Hong/AP/REX/Shutterstock
The payloads on some of SpaceX’s 2019 rocket launches will be its own satellites. SpaceX vice president of satellite government affairs, Patricia Cooper, dropped some new details2 yesterday about the company’s efforts to build a network of Internet-connectivity-providing satellites at a Senate committee hearing3 about broadband infrastructure. The company plans to have the first prototype of the satellite in space by the end of this year, with the first fully-operational units hitting orbit as part of a 2019 launch campaign. The company’s plan to launch the network by 2024 was first outlined in an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) at the end of 20164, and we learned earlier this year5 that SpaceX is projecting a $30 billion revenue stream from the network by 2030, one that could be used to help fund SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s dream mission to Mars6.
Cooper told the committee that a second prototype will be launched in the “early months of 2018,” and the 2019 launch campaign hinges on the prototype’s success. Once the first of the satellites are in place, the rest of the constellation will go up in phases on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket7 through that 2024 target date, when SpaceX believes the system of 4,425 satellites will reach full capacity. Another 7,500 satellites could launch after the first phase, pending the approval of a separate proposal.
Along with the extra change in SpaceX’s coffers, the network of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites could provide a major broadband connectivity boost to people in rural and under-served areas. Other companies are working on expanding internet access through orbiting internet networks, too. Facebook8, OneWeb9, and even Apple, which is reportedly teaming up with Boeing10 to get satellites into orbit, have similar projects underway. Meanwhile, Google X-affiliated Project Loon11‘s balloon-based broadband network operates in the stratosphere.
- ^ Brett Williams (mashable.com)
- ^ new details (www.commerce.senate.gov)
- ^ Senate committee hearing (www.commerce.senate.gov)
- ^ end of 2016 (mashable.com)
- ^ earlier this year (mashable.com)
- ^ dream mission to Mars (mashable.com)
- ^ Falcon 9 rocket (mashable.com)
- ^ Facebook (mashable.com)
- ^ OneWeb (spacenews.com)
- ^ teaming up with Boeing (www.bloomberg.com)
- ^ Project Loon (mashable.com)