SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter on Monday to confirm rumors that his company plans to launch a fleet of micro-satellites that will provide high-speed low cost, unrestricted internet access. Musk also stated that more details would be available in a formal announcement to come in two or three months.
While SpaceX might be using their Falcon 9 rockets to launch the satellites, the extent of Musk’s continued participation in the project is unknown. Musk is believed to have partnered with Greg Wyler, founder of WorldVu Satellites and O3b Networks.
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
Space News reports an unnamed industry insider claims WorldVu has already solicited bids for contractors to build 640 satellites to make up the constellation, generating a great deal of interest among manufacturers. In order to keep price down, some of the components will be made in-house, in addition to those supplied by the contracted company. The satellites are targeted to cost less than $1 million each.
Though details are still sparse at this point, the project is expected to ultimate cost $1.5 billion that will need to be raised ahead of time. Acquiring capital for this venture is just one obstacle. WorldVu is also tasked with building factories in Florida or Colorado to create the satellites, and jumping through the regulatory hoops that would allow the satellites to occupy the area they desire.
The devices themselves are slated to weigh about 125 kilograms (250 pounds), but will pack enough technology to rival full-sized satellites that currently weigh twice as much. Each satellite is anticipated to have a throughput of 14 gigabits per second, which should reduce lag time and delays with service.
Until the official announcement, it is far too early to tell when these satellites will be operational and connecting people with fast, affordable, and unthrottled internet. SpaceX is currently contracted to NASA to develop their Dragon V2 spacecraft to return human spaceflight to the US, in addition to their ongoing commitment for unmanned resupply missions to the ISS.
In addition to the WorldVu satellite constellation, other corporations have expressed an interest in providing high-altitude solutions for internet access. Google—Wyler’s former employer—is developing Project Loon that will use balloons to create a network, in addition to a constellation of 180 satellites. Social media giant Facebook is planning on using solar-powered drones about the size of a Boeing 747. If WorldVu’s network goes up as planned, the network will be ten times larger than any other satellite constellation.
[Hat tip: Engadget]