Welcoming 3 Billion People to the Global Digital Community
SpaceX is upping the ante in the race for a satellite-based wireless network by planning to launch 4,000 SpaceX satellites into orbit over the next five years, beginning in 2017, at an estimated cost of $3 billion. SpaceX will build all 4,000 satellites at its facilities in Seattle, Washington. SpaceX just launched 11 satellites into orbit last month and is set to deliver ViaSat’s next-generation high-capacity broadband satellite, ViaSat-2, in August 2016.
But SpaceX, with support from Google and Fidelity, isn’t alone: Richard Branson has backed One Web and teamed with Airbus and Arianespace to launch a network of 648 satellites in 2018 at an estimated cost of $3 billion. Both companies claim their networks will bring cheaper and faster Internet to underserved and rural locations around the world.
SpaceX has an advantage in that it has the capability of launching its entire network by itself while Branson’s One Web has signed a contract with Russia for 20 Soyuz launches, each carrying 32 satellites with an additional 39 launches using Branson’s Virgin Galactic LaunchOne rocket, which can carry up to three satellites.
There are other satellite systems being planned or already launched, including Sky Muster, which is a satellite designed to deliver high-speed Internet services to 200,000 rural Australians. Broadband speeds are expected to be 25 megabits per second (Mbps). In another development, Deutsche Telekom has teamed with Inmarsat to provide in-flight LTE/satellite based broadband as part of the Global Xpress Network to Lufthansa and other European airlines starting in 2017 at speeds of up to 50 Mbps with uplink speeds of up to 5 Mbps.
The following video describes SpaceX’s Internet Satellite system: