SpaceX Intends Bringing Internet To Space: How Realistic Are Elon Musk's Plans?

18 March 2017, 8:01 am EDT By Samantha Dean Tech Times
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk intends to bring Internet to space, allowing a possible form of communication between Mars and Earth. Musk has reportedly had several secret meetings with FCC to take forward his latest project.  ( ESA | Getty Images )

SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, has been dabbling with several enterprising missions and projects.

In 2015, Musk shared the idea of introducing Universal Internet, to establish a high-speed Internet connection with Mars from Earth.

A year later, in November 2016, the company filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC), regarding approval for the launch of 4,425 satellites to set up a global network of Internet access from space.

Petition Approved By FCC

Finally, after months of waiting, the petition that was filed back in Nov. 15, 2016, has been approved by the FCC as reported by The Verge. Prior to the approval, SpaceX representatives met with FCC two times to talk about the project and its progress plans.

FCC forms reveals that on March 9, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, along with Tim Hughes and Patricia Cooper, met with FCC chairman Ajit Pai as well acting wireless advisor Rachel Bender.

On Feb. 28, SpaceX representatives met with one of the wireless advisors of FCC to discuss the delayed proposal, regarding the regulatory demands on commercial space launches.

In the second meeting on March 9, SpaceX representatives discussed the implication of the satellite network, intended to bring terrestrial Internet to space. The proposal that was filed in November sheds light on how the system would actually run.

According to the proposal, SpaceX intends to place a constellation of more than 4,425 satellites. Nearly 1,600 satellites will launch at the initial stage with the remaining 2,825 satellites slated for later.

SpaceX's Competitors And Rivals

Companies like Motorola have also come up with the idea of a satellite network transmitting data to both individuals, as well small base stations directly, in the past.

The project was named "Iridium", but due to excessive investment cost and fading customer interest, the project suffered a huge loss. Later in 2000, the company was bought by an investor for $35 million.

However, with the arrival of 5G technologies in the near future, the dream of the Universal Internet Satellite looks like a possible reality. As a result, apart from SpaceX, many other agencies such as Boeing and OneWeb have also come up with the similar concepts for data dispersal.

Risks Involved In Building Such Networks

The entire project of the Universal Internet is assumed to cost around $6 billion and is expected to rise as the project grows ahead. With such a huge amount and so many companies already planning for the constellations, it is unlikely that all the three companies will get the approval.

However, the approved company will become an important member of the cellular network, but the risk of bankruptcy also holds higher possibilities.

FCC And Its Conditions

In order to make the Universal Internet concept a reality, a corporation has to get the approval of FCC before starting the project. Given this clause, FCC has quite a few terms and conditions of its own which any corporation needs to follow through - if they want its technology to go forward as planned that is.

The companies have to follow few of the permissive rules of FCC, which state that the organizations must perform their work separately.

Even after the final ruling, FCC will continue to play a pivotal role by deciding on deadlines for the phases of the project. Missing deadlines will not only let the rivals leap ahead, but would also force FCC to eliminate that contender from the race to space.

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