If you followed Musk's presentation to the International aeronautical Congress in Adelaide last month closely, you would have seen that out of roughly 60 rocket launches next year, 30 will be by SpaceX. Which sounds fantastic: in 2012 it did just two launches. But SpaceX's new BFR* will be so big it the will be able to launch up to 10 satellites at a time. And to get people to Mars by 2026, they will need at least 6 BFRs. Where is the funding for that coming from? Musk said that launches between now and 2026 will generate enough cash to fund them. But .... there's a lot of cash needed. What sort of demand for launch services is SpaceX counting on?
Elon Musk is also planning a world-wide high speed internet, using his own satellites. He set up a satellite division in SpaceX arguing that he could produce satellites more cheaply than the satellite industry was doing, just like he did with rockets. And then he decided to build out a world wide ultra high speed internet, using these satellites:
Elon Musk's SpaceX wants to launch thousands of satellites into space with the aim of providing super-fast global internet coverage, according to a regulatory filing.
SpaceX – the company on a mission to colonize Mars – outlined plans to put 4,425 satellites into space in a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing from earlier this week.
That's three times the 1,419 satellites that are currently in space, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a not-for-profit group made up of scientists across the world.
Billionaire Musk – who is also the chief executive of electric car company Tesla – first announced plans for the project in 2015, with an estimated cost of around $10 billion. The FCC filing did not outline the financials of the project.
The plan is to launch 800 satellites initially to expand internet in the U.S. And then the rest of the satellites would follow, although there was no timeline for the launch.
"The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide," SpaceX said in the FCC filing.
SpaceX's satellites will orbit at altitudes between 1,150 kilometers and 1,275 kilometers, allowing each one to cover a space of around 2,120 kilometers wide. According to the official filing, each satellite will weigh around 850 pounds and be the size of a small car.
Once "fully optimized", the system will be able to provide bandwith of 1 gigabytes per second for users globally. That's over 180 times faster than the current global internet speed average of 5.6 megabytes per second which was recorded in the Akamai State of the Internet report at the end of last year.
Reports earlier this year suggested Google and Fidelity had invested $1 billion into SpaceX to support the satellite project.
[Read more here and here and here]
The Wikipedia article on what it calls the SpaceX Satellite Constellation says:
In March 2017, SpaceX filed with the FCC plans to field a constellation of more than 7500 "V-band satellites in non-geosynchronous orbits to provide communications services" in an electromagnetic spectrum that has not previously been "heavily employed for commercial communications services."
Called the "V-band low-Earth orbit (VLEO) constellation," it would consist of "7,518 satellites to follow the [earlier] proposed 4,425 satellites that would function in Ka- and Ku-band. The March 2017 plan calls for SpaceX to launch test satellites of the type in both 2017 and 2018, and as of May 2017, begin launching the operational constellation sats in 2019.
Full build-out of the constellation is not expected to be completed until 2024, at which time there are expected to be "4,425 satellites into orbit around the Earth, operating in 83 planes, at fairly low altitudes of between 1,110 kilometers and 1,325 kilometers."
By September 2017, the planned number of sats in each constellation had not changed, but the altitude of each constellation became explicit: the larger group—7,518 sats—would operate at 340 kilometres (210 mi) altitude, while the smaller group—4,425 sats—would orbit at 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) altitude.
[Read more here]
SpaceX will be calling this system Starlink.
At 10 satellites per launch of the BFR, that's over 1,200 launches. Sheer genius: SpaceX will be creating its own market for the BFR. That's why Musk feels so confident about the finances of building enough BFRs to start the first Mars colony. While just oh so casually also giving the world, the whole world, everywhere in the world--deserts, seas, forests as well as urban and built-up areas--an ultra high speed internet.
The achievements of this bloke are just extraordinary: electric cars; electric trucks; cheap batteries to help green the grid; solar roofs; high speed suborbital rockets giving us 30 minute travel times between continents; ultra high speed internet, everywhere, for everyone; a moon colony; human settlement on Mars; high-speed travel via tubes (The Boring Company); and an intracranial mesh to allow the human brain to connect with the grid and AI (Neuralink). You'll notice I've included a few things in that list which haven't yet happened yet. But who can doubt that he will achieve his goals? Even if it takes him longer than he says.
*I might as well let you into the secret: BFR stands for Big Fucking Rocket. The name was coined by Tim Urban at WaitButWhy