The Internet of outer space could get a fuel injection, as two technology giants reportedly prepare to join forces. The Information reported Monday that Google is about to sign off on an investment deal in SpaceX. If true, the arrangement will fund the use of satellites to deliver Internet access to parts of the world that currently do without.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently called the project “a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date.” In this scenario, his company would build and launch thousands of low-flying satellites that would deliver connectivity to several disparate and disconnected regions. Satellites usually fly as high as 22,000 miles, but these compact units would ascend to an altitude of only 750 miles.
But, he said, the space network would cost $10 billion and take five years or more to pull off. The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is considering a $1 billion investment in Musk’s satellite project, which leaves a lot of money to be raised. Further out, Musk hopes to extend the system out as far as Mars, bringing Internet connectivity to a planet the CEO wants to colonize.
This wouldn’t be Google’s first push to make Internet access available from the skies. With Project Loon, the company imagined hot-air balloons delivering connectivity to remote areas; another project involves drones. Google also pursued its own satellite-based initiative last year, but the project fell apart after Greg Wyler, a crucial lead and satellite expert, left the company.
SpaceX’s effort won’t trifle with wireless spectrum, since it doesn’t rely on radio waves. Instead, it plans to use optical lasers to transmit the signals—which sounds like science fiction and, say skeptics, may not amount to much more in reality.
That may be par for the course for Musk, who has a reputation as king of the moon shots. Apart from the interstellar ambitions of SpaceX, the Tesla founder is also currently pursuing his slightly more grounded Hyperloop project, setting forth plans to build out a test site for the superhigh-speed transportation system in Texas.
Neither SpaceX nor Google immediately responded to a request for comment.
Satellite photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center