Billionaire PayPal founder Elon Musk is an ambitious sort. You don’t generally get “billionaire” in front of your name without a fair amount of drive. He has his own electric car company, Tesla; he’s working to develop a Hyperloop system between Los Angeles and San Francisco, announcing a test track in Texas; and his SpaceX is a key player in the race to privatize space travel. In fact, in Seattle recently, he even said, “One day I will visit Mars.”
The man thinks big, and in that spirit, at the same private event in the Pacific Northwest, Musk, in town to launch SpaceX Seattle, laid out an ambitious plan to use 4000 satellites to create a network that will deliver high-speed Internet anywhere across the globe. This is actually something he initially talked about at back in November.
Speaking to a hand-selected crowd of 400, including Governor Jay Inslee, in Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion, Musk revealed that aerospace and software Engineers in SpaceX’s new office in Redmond, Washington, will design these satellites. Redmond is a Seattle suburb that is also home to the little tech startups like Microsoft and Nintendo, among others.
This network will accomplish two things. First, it will give a general speed boost to the flow of data and information on the Internet. Second, it will provide high-speed Internet at a low-cost to more than three billion people who have little or limited access to the web. The quality will supposedly give fiber optic lines a run for their money while also allowing online access in poor and remote regions of the world. Musk says, “Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date.”
Though it doesn’t have a name just yet—you can bet Musk will come up with something catchy—these satellites will orbit roughly 750 miles above the surface of the Earth, which is much nearer than the 22,000 mile distance of traditional such devices. This will make for faster Internet service with less lag time for things like online gaming, Skype, and cloud-based storage, among many other uses.
Because this is Musk we’re talking about, and he doesn’t do anything small, this is also part of something much, much bigger than just providing worldwide Internet. He says this is “all for the purpose of generating revenue to pay for a city on Mars,” and the ultimate goal is to further steps towards permanent settlement on the Red Planet.
Musk is making the move to Seattle even without any financial incentives from the state. Part of the reason is because of a wealth of local tech talent, and he said, “We want to hire the smartest engineering talent in the world,” and mentioned elsewhere that he has plans to employ “several hundred people, maybe a thousand people” in Washington. He did, however, add that it would be something of a process, noting that hiring 500 people all at once is not a particularly easy feat to pull off.