SpaceX Plans To Build Internet in Space

It sometimes can feel like the Internet is a gift from the heavens. If Elon Musk has his way, that description might be closer to the truth than we have ever dreamed. The brains behind electric car company Tesla and orbital vehicle manufacturer SpaceX has just applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to operate a network of satellites capable of offering Internet service anywhere around the world.

The goal is to build an extensive system of non-geostationary satellites that provide high-speed broadband Internet, at a fraction of the cost of current ISPs, according to SpaceXEUs regulatory filing. The company said the network would be capable of reaching both fixed and mobile users anywhere around the globe, even in the most rural locations.

Uploading to the Stars

If the FCC gives SpaceX the go-ahead, the project truly would be monumental in scope. The company said it has plans to manufacture, launch, and operate all the satellites in a network composed of up to 4,000 separate satellites. Musk said he plans to build the satellites at a new plant in Seattle, Wash. If the FCC agrees to his proposition, preliminary tests could begin as soon as 2016, with parts of the system operational by the end of 2020.

The satellite network would be positioned in low-earth orbit, only about 1,100 kilometers high. By locating the satellites in lower orbit, SpaceX would be able to avoid the limitations of geostationary orbit. DirecTV and Dish Networks both provide satellite Internet service using transmitters located at higher altitudes.

However, because satellites located in geostationary orbit remain above the same location relative to the ground, they are only able to serve specific geographical areas. SpaceXEUs designs call for multiple satellites to continually pick up and hand off their Internet connections, providing both broader coverage...

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