Elon Musk has made another one of his weekly world changing announcements.
SpaceX, Musk’s startup that hopes to one day take humans to Mars, now officially has another tertiary goal that help humans right here on earth. SpaceX says it wants to send 4,425 satellites into orbit between 2019 and 2024 which will beam down affordable internet to the entire world.
“SpaceX plans to bring high-speed, reliable, and affordable broadband service to consumers in the U.S. and around the world, including areas underserved or currently unserved by existing networks,” explained a SpaceX Vice President during a meeting with the US government.
SpaceX’s foray into becoming an internet service provider isn’t as unexpected as it sounds. The company’s Falcon 9 rockets are designed to be reused after launches, and can thus send satellites cheaply into space. And SpaceX seems to believe that connecting the entire world with high speed internet access will require lots of satellites – as many as 4,425 in all – making SpaceX a logical company to move into the space.
There’s competition though – Facebook also has the mission of bringing internet to the entire world, but it plans to do it in a slightly more outlandish way. Facebook plans to beam down internet through massive solar-powered flying drones, which could continuously fly around and help bring internet to unconnected areas. And Google has an ambitious plan of its own, but it involves balloons – Google’s Project Loon wants to fly balloons into the atmosphere where they’d gently rest, and bring internet services to the areas below them.
All these companies have firsthand seen the transformative impact of the internet. Google and Facebook were built over the internet, and Musk has made his fortune off the internet through PayPal. These companies are also approaching a scale where they need more internet users to keep growing at the pace they’ve been accustomed to. And bringing internet services to the world, in addition to increasing their user-bases, also is strategic — having control over the pipes through which internet is provided to the world could be enormously valuable.
And SpaceX and Musk seem to have realized this. While his latest project isn’t as grandiose as his other initiatives, be it digging tunnels below cities or connecting human minds to the internet, it’ll still be extremely impactful . Bringing the internet to people who’ve never had it doesn’t sound as cool as sending humans to Mars, but it could transform lives right here on earth.