Well, Elon Musk is at it again. Musk’s company SpaceX has now asked the federal government for permission to begin testing on a new project. The idea is to beam internet service from space. They would be the next Comcast… from outer space. Interestingly enough, this would launch SpaceX into the category of a major high-speed Internet provider both to those in the developed world and also billions of those not currently online.
SpaceX’s plan will involve launching 4,000 small satellites that will then beam internet signals all over the world, both to developed and undeveloped areas. According to Musk this, “would be like rebuilding the Internet in space.” According to Musk’s predictions, SpaceX’s system will have the ability to reach remote regions of the world and will also handle up to 10 percent of internet traffic in urban and suburban regions.
The FCC filing is proposing that tests start next year and, if all goes well, the service could potentially be running in roughly five years.
From the Chicago Tribune:
Over the last several years, SpaceX has moved from a spunky startup with a seemingly outlandish goal of colonizing Mars to disruptive competitor that has remade the rocket launch business. It became the first commercial space company to fly supplies to the International Space Station. Last year, it won a separate contract to fly astronauts there by 2017. And the Pentagon recently qualified the company to compete for lucrative missions to launch national security satellites into orbit.
SpaceX’s main goal remains flying people to Mars, because in order to survive, Musk thinks, humans must become a “multi-planetary species.”
In January, Musk tied his Mars and space internet plans together in saying that “Mars is going to need a global communications system too, […] a lot of what we do developing Earth-based communications can be leveraged for Mars, as well, as crazy as that may sound.”
There are certainly some major hurdles for Musk and SpaceX to overcome here though. This idea of beaming the internet from space is not a new one. In fact, Bill Gates had a similar idea in the 1990s and Virgin and Richard Branson currently have their own plan in the works right now. Meanwhile, Facebook has recently shelved a project to build a $500 million satellite of its own. Several who have come before with similar ideas have run into issues too big to overcome.
Many are rooting for Musk, he has his own rocket and technology that is smaller and cheaper because it is being built in-house. Even giants like Google are on board. Google and Fidelity recently invested $1 billion into SpaceX. This was partially to support the satellite broadband internet project.
As with most things, we’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out. I feel confident though that Musk will be able to produce some sort of big results. He has proven himself to be an amazing innovator of our time. His ideas are paired with intense research, resources, planning, and trial and error. Any guesses where this project is headed? How do you see the FCC responding?