Will SpaceX's Internet Satellite Change the Broadband Game?

Casey Dawson
February 20, 2018

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, the world's most powerful rocket, is gearing up for the launch of its first commercial payload. President Donald Trump's infrastructure proposal lists broadband, or high-speed internet service, as eligible for funding alongside traditional projects such as roads and bridges. It was a proposed network of thousands of satellites that could deliver 5G-quality service. SpaceX will launch the test satellites on Sunday after which, the satellites will come online later next year.

John Taylor, a SpaceX spokesman, didn't immediately comment or further details on the company's plans, but the FCC past year said SpaceX had requested authority to deploy and operate a constellation of 4,425 satellites operating roughly 700 to 800 miles above the Earth (or 1,110-to-1325 kilometers). This is, in turn, reduce the overheads giving a seamless internet connection to everyone leaving in the distant places on Earth where antennas and other connectivity components aren't frequent. The two 26-foot-long panels on each spacecraft will help power the flight computer; attitude and control; propulsion; a Global Positioning System receiver; and broadband, telemetry and command receivers and transmitters.

Some internal financial documents of SpaceX that past year the Wall Street Journal obtained show that the company has very high expectations for its satellite network.

But why does CEO Elon Musk want to enter the communications industry? With tight margins and high risks, Musk's long-term vision of Mars colonization likely can not hinge on exclusively operating in rocketry.

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According to a report at Nasaspaceflight.com, the Paz satellite - named after the Spanish word for "peace" - will be launched into a 514 km circular orbit. OneWeb, which is now building its campus just down the road from SpaceX at Kennedy Space Center, plans to start building a constellation of 900 broadband satellites next year.

The US spacefaring shop asked for permission to launch up to 12,000 satellites to form this internet-sharing constellation. Smaller satellites are crucial to lowering the cost of space-based Internet and communications. Of those, only OneWeb, Space Norway and Telesat have gained access to the USA market through FCC approvals. This has drawn other companies such as OneWeb, which recently struck a deal with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, into the race to supply cheap high-speed internet. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Ajit Pai, said the network would solve one of the biggest headaches in technology today: poor internet connectivity in rural areas.

Satellite technology is the best method of reaching all those far-off places where normally the service can not penetrate such as rural and rustic regions. "And it can offer more competition where terrestrial Internet access is already available." added Pai.

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