SpaceX intends to deliver Internet from the space through a network of 4,425 satellites and to that end it has requested an approval from the US Federal Communications Commission.
According to SpaceX’s plans, it wants to provide high-speed, global internet coverage and other communications services to residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide through a network of satellites that would cost the company at least $10 billion. The cost estimates were put together as early as January 2015 and with almost two years gone, the cost could likely be more.
As per the documents put forward by SpaceX, it intends to establish the first bits of the global satellite network by launching as many as 800 satellites to expand internet access in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. SpaceX hasn’t mentioned any specific timeframe for the launch of the satellites.
SpaceX notes in the technical documents that the satellites would be launched into orbits ranging from 714 miles to 823 miles (1,150-1,325 km) above Earth. Each satellite, about the size of an average car, not including solar panels, would weigh 850 pounds (386 kg).
SpaceX isn’t the first company that has thought of such a global satellite-based Internet and communications network as privately owned OneWeb and Boeing Co. are also developing such internet-via-satellite networks. Such a system would provide a space-based alternative to cable, fiber-optics and other terrestrial internet access currently available.
SpaceX’s primary business is launching satellites into orbit for government and commercial customers. It also flies cargo supply ships to the International Space Station for NASA. SpaceX rocket launches have been on hold since a Sept 1 launch pad accident that destroyed a $62 million Falcon 9 booster and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite. The company hopes to resume flights next month.
Considering the financial situation of the company and the list of investors backing the company including Alphabet’s Google Inc and Fidelity Investments, the Internet-via-satellite endeavour doesn’t seem to be too far-fetched.