Space X Plans To Send 4,425 Satellites Into Orbit, Bringing Worldwide Internet With Gigabit Speeds

Plans of providing the whole world with high-speed internet available anywhere aren’t something new and unseen. Google already has its Project Loon, a worldwide-internet foray that should bring bandwidth to every corner of the world with the help of modified weather balloons. Facebook has other ways of delivering affordable internet to all. The largest social network in the world wants to cover the world with solar-powered drones capable of circling the world while providing internet access to everyone.

While both mentioned projects are massive-scale ventures, they both stick to the Earth’s atmosphere. Neither company wants to go into space. Well, there’s a third worldwide-internet provider in the block, and their plans make Project Loon and Facebook’s drones to look like a child’s play.

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SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, a man with a grand-scale vision of making the world a better place, just filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission; the company wants to launch a massive fleet consisting out of 4,425 satellites that would be capable of delivering the internet everywhere. While the plan alone is something we don’t see every day, the sheer number of satellites is mind-boggling.

For instance, if we take into account every single active satellite orbiting the Earth at this moment, we come to the number of 1,419, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. SpaceX’s fleet is more than triple in size. Even if we take into account every satellite that’s no longer operational, just floating in space without any purpose, and there are around 2,600 of them, the massive future fleet is still larger than active and inactive satellite flotilla combined.

The plan is to first launch 1,600 satellites that will orbit at altitudes from 1,150 km (715 miles) to 1275 km (790 miles). Each satellite should weigh around 386 kilograms (around 850 pounds), less than large telecommunication satellites, which can weigh up to a couple of tons. Also, telecommunication satellites usually nest in the geostationary orbit, placed 35,000 kilometers (around 22,000) above Earth.

Each SpaceX internet satellite will cover an eclipse of around 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles). Since Earth’s equatorial diameter is 12,742 km, just 6 satellites will be enough to cover the areas around the equator. But, since we talk about covering the whole Earth, not just a thin strip around the equator, a massive 4,000-plus satellite fleet would be required in order to cover the whole Earth’s surface.

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As SpaceX wrote in its application “The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional users worldwide,” meaning that everyone will be able to use SpaceX’s internet.

After the initial launch (the first 1,600 satellites) the company plans to send additional 2,825 satellites placed at different latitudes. The plan is to cover the US first, and then move on to other territories “With the deployment of the first 800 satellites, SpaceX will be able to provide widespread U.S. and international coverage for broadband services. Once fully optimized through the Final Deployment, the system will be able to provide high bandwidth (up to 1 Gbps per user), low latency broadband services for consumers and businesses in the U.S. and globally.”

A speed of 1 gigabit per second is incredibly fast. For instance, the global average internet speed (late 2015) is around 5 Mbps (according to Akamai’s “State of the Internet” report). Further, around 4.7 billion people are offline, because of many reasons. If SpaceX manages to fulfill its huge plan, every person on the face of the Earth will soon be able to be online and to have lots of bandwidth. We just have to wait a while until SpaceX decides to share launch dates and the projected start of the project.

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