SpaceX sought government permission Tuesday to launch 4,425 satellites to form a massive network to provide high-speed (1Gbps) internet access across the globe. The system operated by the private rocket firm would pass over all parts of the planet’s surface, and the satellites would orbit Earth above the International Space Station at altitudes ranging from 714 to 823 miles, or 1,150 to 1,325 km.

The massive network would provide a space-based alternative to cable, fiber-optics, and other ordinary internet services available in the market.

SpaceX wants to launch 4,425 satellites to form a massive network that provides high-speed internet to the whole world. Photo credit:
SpaceX wants to launch 4,425 satellites to form a massive network that provides high-speed internet to the whole world. Photo credit:

The details of the telecom plan were laid in a filing to the U.S. Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) after Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and chief, declared in 2015 that the network would cost about $10bn, according to a report by the BBC. He added at the time that the service would be “larger than anything that has been talked about to date.” However, the latest documents did not reveal anything about cost estimates.

“The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide,” SpaceX said in technical documents presented with its filing, according to Reuters.

If the company gets federal permission, its satellites will be launched to operate in 83 orbital planes and the first 800 satellites would be focused on expanding internet access across the United States, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, according to the BBC report. The firm said each satellite would weigh 850 pounds and be about the size of an average car.

Based on information from the Union of Concerned Scientists, SpaceX would be launching more than thrice the current number of satellites orbiting Earth. The firm is planning to design satellites that could last five to seven years before they decay and it could take up to five years to launch all the 4,425.

The firm, whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp, counts on financial support from Alphabet’s Google Inc. and Fidelity Investments, which have contributed $1 billion to the rocket company.

The rocket launches operated by Elon Musk have been on hold since an explosion in early September that destroyed a $62m Falcon 9 booster that was set to carry a $200m Israeli communication satellite, which was also lost. SpaceX has said it expects to resume operations next month.

SpaceX is mainly focused on launching satellites into orbit for both government and commercial customers. NASA also counts on the firm for carrying cargo supply ships to the International Space Station. The concept of the firm is designing reusable rockets to reduce costs and achieve more affordable space missions significantly.

The FCC also revealed that Musk has a 54 percent stake in the innovative space corporation he founded, compared to his 22 percent stake in Tesla, as reported by Engadget.


SpaceX is not alone in the market of satellite-based internet services. OneWeb, Intelsat, SES (03B), Telesat and Boeing Co. are currently developing their respective plans. As the Internet of Things shows promise and there is a global need for connectivity, it does not seem unlikely that like these massive networks orbiting the Earth will be profitable. SpaceX is expected to succeed because it specializes in launching satellites.

Source: BBC