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SpaceX's Elon Musk says satellites will boost internet from Earth to Mars

01/19/2015 12:29 EST | Updated 03/21/2015 05:59 EDT
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk plans to launch hundreds of micro-satellites to expand and improve internet access for billions of people on Earth – and eventually help bring internet service to Mars, reports say.

Musk opened a new SpaceX office in Seattle Friday where employees are expected to work on the micro-satellite project, reported Bloomberg Businessweek.

The project will include hundreds of tiny satellites orbiting about 1,200 kilometres above the Earth. That's far closer than most traditional communications satellites located in geosynchronous orbit about 36,000 kilometres above Earth, meaning that communications with Earth would be faster.

The satellites would connect remote parts of the world to the internet. More than four billion people representing more than half the world's population are still not connected. The service is also expected to speed up the internet between distant locations that already have internet service by bouncing signals from one to the other via space instead of routing them through cables on Earth.

A report Monday from subscription technology news website The Information says that Google is in talks to invest billions in SpaceX to support the satellite internet project.

Musk had first mentioned the satellite project in a tweet in November, saying the announcement would come in two or three months.

Musk sees the satellites as "the basis for a system that will stretch all the way to Mars, where he plans to set up a colony in the coming decades," Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

The Seattle Times reported that Musk said similar things about the project at the opening of the new SpaceX office – an event that media were not invited to.

Musk and SpaceX are among several big names in technology that hope to  connect the billions of people not yet connected to the internet.

Earlier in the week, Richard Branson, founder of the space technology company Virgin Galactic, said his company is partnering with Qualcomm Inc. to create the largest-ever constellation of internet-beaming satellites, by investing in a company called OneWeb Ltd.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is spearheading the Internet.org initiative that aims to bring free internet service to unconnected parts of the world. Its strategy includes developing cheaper smartphones.

Google has Project Loon, which aims to deliver internet via giant balloons in the stratosphere that carry internet-beaming antennas.

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