SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who recently announced plans to build a test track for a high-speed “hyperloop” transportation system, has now set his sights much higher. At a SpaceX event in Seattle on Friday, Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek that he is planning an ambitious project that would ensure Internet connectivity to the denizens of a future Martian colony -- one that he plans to establish in the coming decades.
“It will be important for Mars to have a global communications network as well … I think this needs to be done, and I don’t see anyone else doing it,” Musk reportedly said.
The space Internet venture, which is yet to be named, would be an extension of his satellite Internet project and would use the same infrastructure, Musk told Bloomberg. As part of the project, SpaceX would launch hundreds of satellites to orbit the planet at an altitude of about 750 miles -- much closer than the traditional communication satellites, which orbit at about 22,000 miles. As a result of their proximity to Earth, Internet users would, in theory, be able to access faster Internet as signals would have to travel much lesser distances.
According to Bloomberg, Musk’s Internet service could rival high-speed fiber optic cables on land. “The speed of light is 40 percent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber,” Musk reportedly said. “The long-term potential is to be the primary means of long-distance Internet traffic and to serve people in sparsely populated areas.”
Musk, who is also the co-founder PayPal and Tesla Motors, estimated that the project would take at least five years to get off the ground and would cost nearly $10 billion. “But we see it as a long-term revenue source for SpaceX to be able to fund a city on Mars,” Musk reportedly said.
Musk has repeatedly pushed for a greater emphasis on Mars exploration and for establishing a colony on the red planet. In September last year, he had told Aeon Magazine that colonizing Mars was one of humanity’s most important goals.