Elon Musk first came up with the idea to launch 4,425 satellites, more than three times the number of the current active satellites orbiting our planet, back in 2015. The SpaceX and Tesla chief estimated the cost of the project at around $10 billion. Google was one of the first investors in the project, with a $1 billion contribution.
The goal is to provide high speed internet access around the world. As SpaceX put it in an FCC filing, “the system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide.”
Last week, SpaceX formally asked the FCC for permission to move forward with the project. In the first phase, 800 satellites would be placed in orbit, through 16 launches. The altitude they will orbit at will vary between 1,150 kilometers and 1,275 kilometers. The first swarm of satellites would cover the territory of the United States, but no details were provided about the timeframe when the rest of the satellites will be launched.
Each satellite will weigh around 850 pounds and will cover an area that is 2,120 kilometers wide. The network of satellites will be able to provide data transfer speeds of 1GB data per second across the world. That’s 180 times faster than the current average internet speed, which is just 5.6MB per second.
Other companies that have plans to launch similar satellites constellations include OneWeb and aerospace giant Boeing, but if there is anyone who could actually complete such a massive project, that’s definitely Elon Musk. The question is, will Musk be able to manage yet another venture, given his incredibly complex existing commitments?