Elon Musk believes that the next stage of human advancement is on the horizon. His company SpaceX is setting its sights on Mars, but the future may be closer than that. In a recent release the company said that it is planning on releasing a network of satellites that will provide internet to the globe and ultimately connect humanity.
The company is planning on launching a prototype satellite this year, with another planned in the early months of 2018.
In the future, SpaceX plans to launch additional satellites in phases until 2024, at which point the network should reach full capacity. SpaceX plans to use its own Falcon 9 rockets to get the satellites into low Earth orbit in an effort to help save costs and control its own destiny in terms of scheduling.
According to Patricia Cooper, Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs, this plan would put 4,425 satellites into orbit around the Earth, operating in 83 planes, at relatively low altitudes of between 1,110 and 1,325 kilometers.
SpaceX also intends to support its network with ground control centers, gateway stations and other Earth-based facilities. Separately, there are already major telecom companies testing 5G networks in major metropolitan complexes. So a satellite network is not out of the ordinary.
Currently, there are only an estimated 1,459 satellites in orbit around the planet. However, the SpaceX initiative would launch triple that figure, potentially cluttering up the space around Earth, making future launches potentially difficult and dangerous.
While cluttering up space could be a problem in the future, it could also make it much easier for everyone to get relatively fast internet back on Earth.
It’s also worth mentioning that this infrastructure would be easier to deal with as opposed to something on the ground. So there is a give and take to this idea. Patricia Cooper said according to The Verge:
In other words, the common challenges associated with siting, digging trenches, laying fiber, and dealing with property rights are materially alleviated through a space-based broadband network.