Not content with electric cars and cheap rockets, the billionaire entrepreneur, Elon Musk is now focused on satellites. He is looking at ways to make smaller and less-expensive models, which can deliver Internet access globally. Musk is working with Greg Wyler who is and former Google Inc. executive and a satellite-industry veteran; Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd.
Musk and Wyler have apparently spoken with industry executives regarding launching approximately 700 satellites that weigh less than 250 pounds each. To put that into perspective, that is about half the size of the smallest communications satellite that is now in commercial use.
The largest current fleet is managed by Iridium Communications Inc. but if Musk has his way then his array would be 10 times that amount. Industry officials have estimated that it may cost $1 billion plus, to develop the project. In addition to Mr. Musk, WorldVu is seeking a satellite industry partner to give some expertise to the project, sources have said. It is to be made known, however, that sources have cautioned the venture is in its formative stages, and that Musk’s participation is not yet certain.
Musk’s SpaceX company would likely launch the satellites, although at this speculative stage no agreement is in place whatsoever. It would make sense that SpaceX would be the firm behind the launches as they have launched a dozen of their own Falcon 9 rockets over the past five years and there are plans fora few dozen launches through to 2018.
If Musk and Wyler decide to construct the satellites, they would face some competition from other makers of small satellites, like Nevada-based Sierra Nevada Corp. and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd in Britain. But Musk and Wyler do share an interest in reducing the cost of satellites. WorldVu needs lots of satellites, and they could be the key customer for a low-cost/high-volume, satellite maker.
The smallest communications satellites currently weigh approximately 500 pounds and cost several million dollars each. WorldVu hopes to bring the cost of producing smaller satellites under $1 million.
[image via careersprout]