As if Elon Musk could have his fingers in any more pies. The billionaire PayPal pioneer is the CEO of Tesla Motors, founder and CEO of SpaceX and chairman of SolarCity. When he’s not trying to boost the electric car industry, he’s figuring out how to recycle rockets to cut space exploration costs, or making steps towards bringing his conceptual super-fast train, Hyperloop, closer to reality.
Now, the enterprising entrepreneur has announced perhaps his most ambitious intentions yet: establishing a human settlement on Mars. And of course, when we finally get there, we’re going to want to send lots of Red Planet selfies, which is why he first wants to build a second Internet in space that could one day reach Mars.
According to Bloomberg News, the idea is to set up an engineering office in Seattle solely dedicated to developing and launching satellites. Not only will this commercial satellite venture provide him with the cash to make colonizing Mars possible, since satellite launches are big business, but it will also help him towards his second goal of improving the Internet on our own planet.
As reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, Musk intends to establish an immense network of orbiting communication satellites that would not only speed up Internet connections across Earth, but would also provide people in remote areas with fast, cheap Internet. Hopefully, this will mean better access to the Web for the 3 billion people across the world who have poor or no internet.
Unlike traditional communications satellites, which hover up to 22,000 miles (35,400 km) above Earth, Musk’s network would orbit at altitudes of roughly 750 miles (1,200 km) so that the signals have less distance to travel. In theory, the connection provided would be as fast as fiber optic cable services, but it would also reach people in poor rural areas. Because data wouldn’t have to pass through large numbers of routers and land-based networks, but instead would bounce across satellites, connecting with people across the other side of the world would be quicker.
“The speed of light is 40 percent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber,” says Musk. “The long-term potential is to be the primary means of long-distance Internet traffic and to serve people in sparsely populated areas.” If this ambitious goal can be realized, Musk will then look at extending this system all the way to Mars, ready for when humans begin colonizing the planet in the future.
Of course, this project is not going to be cheap and comes with a predicted $10 billion pricetag, and it will be at least five years before we start using space Internet. But if SpaceX can make it happen, then the profits will help the company towards its ultimate dream of colonizing Mars, the plans for which are due to be revealed later this year.