SpaceX CEO Elon Musk held an invite-only event last night in Seattle to unveil his plan to deliver global Internet services via satellite. The event was closed to media, but he did describe the program in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.
The plan involves launching a constellation of hundreds of satellites that would orbit 750 miles above the Earth. The spacecraft would provide direct, high-speed communications to any location on the planet and reach billions of people currently unable to access the Internet.
“Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek ahead of the announcement.
The plan is similar to a $2 billion initiative announced earlier this week by Greg Wyler. The company, OneWeb, is beingt backed by the Virgin Group and Qualcomm.
Musk and Wyler have known each other for years. Musk, in fact, used to crash at Wyler’s guest house in Atherton, Calif. While there are major similarities between the two ventures, Musk says he’ll have an edge through SpaceX’s smarts and manufacturing techniques. “Greg and I have a fundamental disagreement about the architecture,” Musk says. “We want a satellite that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than what Greg wants. I think there should be two competing systems.”
Musk used last night’s event to formally announce the opening of an engineering center in the Seattle area. The new center will initially recruite about 60 employees, with plans to expand to as many as 1,000 within three to four years. Employees will work on SpaceX’s satellite network, Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, Musk said.