Elon Musk has earned himself quite a reputation for pioneering in the tech industry, founding or co-founding a number of successful businesses including Paypal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX, just to name a few. His latest idea is to launch the largest network of communication satellites into space, to greatly improve internet speed and reduce the cost for people in remote locations around the world. Musk himself mentions the huge benefits it would offer to approximately 3 billion people in the world who have poor access to the Internet.
The, as of yet, unnamed space internet venture would require the launching of hundreds of satellites into orbit. These satellites would be in orbit about 750 miles above earth. This would be much closer than the 22,000 miles that most of the existing communication satellites, allowing them to relay messages much faster due to the shorter distance the signals will travel. This system could rival fiber optic cables in speed, and would be available in areas where laying down fiber cables is infeasible.
Musk does not expect this network to be operational any sooner than 5 years, and at a cost of about $10 billion dollars. However he sees it as a long term source of income that can help fund a colony on Mars, which he has long dreamed about. In fact he intends to eventually expand the satellite network, by sending satellites into orbit around Mars, so that the colony will have internet access as well.
Another entrepreneur, Greg Wyler, announced a similar plan with his startup, OneWeb, which also seeks to launch hundreds of communications satellites into space to reach remote ares. Wyler has a bit of a head-start on Musk. While Musk is still in the process of assembling a team of engineers to work on this venture, OneWeb already has a team of 30 engineers designing the satellites and software, and they expect it to be up and running by 2018, a couple years sooner than Musk’s 5 year estimate for his own venture. However Musk expects the manufacturing techniques from his SpaceX company to give him an advantage over OneWeb.
Do you think the benefits of these ambitious plans will outweigh the costs? What do you think will be the global effects of these space networks, if they are successful? Leave your comments below.