If you are familiar with Elon Musk, you’ll know that he is hailed as a visionary in many quarters. A billionaire who has revolutionized the fields of online payments, electric cars and space technology through Paypal, Tesla and SpaceX.He is now turning his eyes towards providing global internet access.
In a tweet to his followers, Musk said, “SpaceX is still in the early stages of developing advanced micro-satellites operating in large formations. Announcement in 2 to 3 months.”
SpaceX is still in the early stages of developing advanced micro-satellites operating in large formations. Announcement in 2 to 3 months.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 11, 2014
The information is thin at the moment but when asked whether the project was targeting mass internet access, Musk replied ‘unfettered certainly and at a very low cost’.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Musk has been working with Greg Wyler, a satellite industry veteran and former Google executive. Wylers’s company, WorldVu Satellites Ltd, controls a significant amount of radio spectrum in the 12-18 GHz range which would be used to deliver internet access.
Around 700 satellites are planned and each will weigh less than 250 pounds. The project seems ambitious in every sense since the lightest commercial satellite in operation measures more than 500 pounds and the largest operational satellite fleet is a measly 70 satellites strong.
The primary focus of the project is likely to be the reduction of costs associated with producing the satellites. Ideally, Musk and Wyler want to bring the individual cost down to $1 million according to sources. That being said, due to the highly technical nature of the project, it is estimated to cost over 1 billion dollars.
The idea for global internet access is not new and Musk is likely to face very tough competition. Google is already trying something similar with Project Loon, which uses high altitude balloons that hover in the air and provide internet access. The company has also invested in companies like Titan Aerospace which produces solar powered aircraft that can fly for hundreds of meters and beam wireless signals to the ground.
Facebook is also actively trying to provide internet to the masses. The social media giant has also helped launch Internet.org, a collaboration platform between industry leaders like Ericsson, Samsung and Qualcomm which aims to connect everyone in the world to the internet. Furthermore, the social media giant has unveiled plans to send drones and satellites to remote areas to connect them to the internet.