How Elon Musk’s new satellite venture will change the Internet


First he revolutionized electric cars. Then he revolutionized the commercial space industry. Now, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is revolutionizing the Internet by developing small inexpensive satellites that would deliver Internet access to planet Earth.

Musk is now working with satellite start-up WorldVu, led by former Google executive Greg Wyler. Wyler once led Google's own Internet satellite venture before leaving the company to start WorldVu.

The two men plan to launch 700 Internet satellites in space, but here's the catch: they wish to build each satellite for under $1 million each, and each satellite must weigh less than 250 pounds. As even today's smallest communications satellites cost millions to build and weigh at least 500 pounds, the men have their work cut out for them.

"The idea of using aerial platforms to deliver connectivity is one that is many decades old, from low-orbital satellites to balloons and more recently unmanned aerial vehicles," says Professor William Webb of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. "'The difficulty has always been one of keeping the aerial platform in the right place in the sky for weeks or months at a low enough cost."

Launching the satellites, however, would be easy, thanks to Musk's Space X Falcon 9 rockets. SpaceX has already launched dozens of its rockets in the past few years and is also currently working on spacecrafts for NASA to carry astronauts to and from orbit.

However, Musk and Wyler are not without competition. Both Google and Facebook have stated similar plans: creating satellites to deliver Internet access to parts of the world that currently don't have access, either because of a lack of infrastructure or geography. Another of Google's projects, Project Loon, which seeks to use high-altitude balloons to provide Internet to remote areas, is in testing phases now.

Wyler himself headed up Google's initiative before he left the company.

So why leave a company already doing something similar to start another company for the same purpose? The Wall Street Journal reports that sources stated that Wyler didn't believe that Google had "sufficient manufacturing expertise" to pull it off. However, it seems that he believes Musk has just the sort of proficiency to get the project off the ground.

The men are in talks with governments in both the state of Florida and the state of Colorado about the possibility of building satellite factories there. However, this project is in its early phases, so nothing is official yet. Not only will the venture have to jump through regulatory hoops, but it will also need around $1 billion for development.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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