Google Inc. is reportedly close to a “very large” investment in SpaceX to help fund CEO Elon Musk’s plan to beam cheap Internet around the world using satellites. The move comes after Google’s own plan for Internet satellites fell apart.
Google will value SpaceX at $10 billion in the deal, the Information reports, citing “several people familiar with the talks.” The round of funding will include investors other than Google, the site said.
Musk has said the satellites will beam the Internet to the billions of people in the world who do not have access. He said SpaceX would use the project to help fund a colony on Mars, and told Bloomberg Businessweek the satellites could also be used eventually beam to Internet access to his proposed Martian colonies.
The SpaceX program will compete with other tech giants, as an Internet space race heats up in Silicon Valley. Facebook announced last year it was working on a similar plan that would include satellites communicating by laser to solar-powered drones.
Entrepreneur Greg Wyler said his new startup OneWeb would also launch a similar network of satellites. Wyler had previously been in charge of Google’s efforts before leaving last year and then worked with SpaceX and Musk before the partnership fell through.
“Greg and I have a fundamental disagreement about the architecture,” Musk told BusinessWeek. “We want a satellite that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than what Greg wants. I think there should be two competing systems.”
OneWeb says Qualcomm and the Virgin Group will invest in its effort, and the startup already has rights to the spectrum it will need to broadcast Internet signals. Wyler has said the program will be up and running by 2018.
Musk told BusinessWeek SpaceX’s engineers and manufacturing scale would give it an edge over similar satellite programs. Musk has said SpaceX’s efforts would involve micro-satellites operating “in large formations,” with as many as 700 satellites floating in near-Earth orbit.