Elon Musk has announced an ambitious plan to put more than 4,000 satellites in space to create a global high-speed internet network.
Musk first turned his attention to internet satellites in 2014, and his plan soon received the backing of Google, which chucked $1bn at Space Exploration Technologies Corp, aka SpaceX. Musk said in January 2015 that the plan would cost at least $10bn.
The original number of satellites was pinned at 700, but documents filed with the US Federal Communications Commission show that SpaceX wants to deploy 4,425 satellites, plus "in-orbit spares", to provide high-speed, global internet coverage. Earth is currently orbited by just 1,400 satellites.
These satellites will each weigh 386kg and will have an operating lifetime of five to seven years. The satellites, which will be smaller than current communications satellites, would orbit the planet at altitudes ranging from 714 to 823 miles - above the International Space Station, but below geostationary satellites.
The documents, filed on Tuesday, show that SpaceX plans an initial launch of 800 satellites next year to create an orbiting digital communications array to cover the US, including Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
In the filing, SpaceX said: "The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide."
If this initial launch is successful, SpaceX said it will launch the remaining satellites.
"Once fully deployed, the SpaceX system will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide ubiquitous global service," the filing said.
"Because of the combination of orbital planes used in the SpaceX System, including the use of near-polar orbits, every point on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite at an elevation no less than 40 degrees, with increasing minimum elevation angles at lower latitude."
Musk's SpaceX isn't the only firm looking to satellites as the future of internet connectivity. Google's Project Loon has a similar plan, albeit involving network-connected balloons, and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic previously made an agreement with OneWeb to invest in and deploy satellites in space.
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