SpaceX aims to launch internet from space

BBC News : Private rocket firm SpaceX has applied for government permission to launch satellites that will provide global broadband internet access.

Visualization of satellites in space beaming internet signals, illustrating SpaceX's objective to establish internet connectivity from space.
Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

In a filing to the US Federal Communications Commission (FFC), it laid out details about its plans for a 4,425-strong satellite network.

It is one of several companies aiming to deploy satellite-based internet services over the next few years.

SpaceX suffered a setback in September when a rocket exploded.

In a statement, the firm said: “Once fully deployed, the SpaceX system will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service.”

The satellites would orbit the planet at altitudes ranging from 714 to 823 miles (1,150 to 1,325 km). That is above the International Space Station but below geostationary satellites.

Analysis – Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent

SpaceX has talked about its telecoms ambitions for a while.

Now, under a deadline to file interest with the FFC, the company has given a more technical glimpse of its proposal.

Some 4,425 satellites (plus spares), operating in 83 orbital planes, at altitudes ranging from 689 miles to 823 miles (1,110 km to 1,325 km).

SpaceX has prototype satellites ready for launch next year, but the full constellation won’t be operational until the next decade.

SpaceX is by no means the only group looking to make a pitch in this market. Established satellite communcations big-hitters such as Intelsat (OneWeb), SES (O3B), Telesat and Boeing are at various stages in their own development plans.

It used to be that “constellation” was a dirty word after the initial attempts at building sat phone networks in the 1990s filed for bankruptcy, unable to pay back huge loans. But the wind has changed.

Connectivity drives the global economy

with the coming “internet of things”, there is a feeling that these mega-networks in the sky will prove profitable. Not for all, but perhaps for those able to move quick enough and get their constellations launched. And SpaceX’s main business is launching satellites.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, announced last year that the service would be “larger than anything that has been talked about to date” adding that it would take about $10bn (£8bn) to get it off the ground.

The latest documents did not include costs.

The initial plan involves deploying 800 satellites, the size of an average car without solar panels, to enhance internet access in the US, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Each satellite would weigh around 850 pounds (386kg), according to the company.

SpaceX rocket launches have been on hold since September following an accident that destroyed a $62m Falcon 9 booster and a $200m Israeli communication satellite. The firm hopes to resume flights next month.

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