Internet Satellites: Elon Musk’s Next Mission by Brady Bunte
Elon Musk makes electric cars, rockets, batteries. and solar panels said Brady Bunte. Now, he is adding satellites and looking at ways to make them smaller, less-expensive models that can deliver Internet access worldwide, added Brady Bunte. Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran and former Google Inc. Executive, is Musk’s pick as a partner. Mr. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which controls a large block of radio spectrum and plans to have 360 satellites in orbit to offer global internet broadband service to each consumer as early as 2019.
Musk’s goal however is to have 700 satellites each weighing less than 250 pounds, noted Brady Bunte. That will be half the size of the current smallest communications satellites in commercial use now and ten times the size of the fleet. The satellite constellation would be managed by Iridium Communications Inc. The current smallest communications satellites now cost several million dollars and weigh about 500 pounds. The goal is to lower the cost to manufacture the new satellites for less than $1 million, Brady Bunte explained.
The project would have many financial, technical and regulatory challenges and would cost well over a $1 billion to develop. Musk and Wyler would build a factory to manufacture the satellites, said Brady Bunte. Initial talks have been held with Florida and Colorado state officials about a site for the manufacturing facility.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX, would most likely launch the fleet of satellites, stated Brady Bunte, though no commitments have been made at this time. Musk has launched Falcon 9 rockets a dozen times in the past five years and has four more launches slated through 2018 also has won a $2.6 billion NASA contract to develop, test and fly space taxis to carry U.S. astronauts into orbit.
Brady Bunte explained , that If Musk and Wyler do build the satellites, they are going to face stiff competition from other small satellites manufactures, such as Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corp.
Lastly, Musk and Wyler would have no trouble finding investors tech giants like Google, Facebook and Amazon willing to invests to unwired parts of the globe, through drones, balloons according to Brady Bunte.