According to its US Federal Communications Commission application, Space X plans an orbiting digital communications array that would eventually consist of 4,425 satellites.
The project, which Musk previously said would cost at least $10 billion, was first announced in January 2015. Signed up to the project are Google and Fidelity Investments, which together have contributed $1 billion to Musk’s space launch firm.
The proposed SpaceX network would begin with the launch of about 800 “care sized” satellites to expand internet access in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
“The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide,” SpaceX said in technical documents accompanying its filing.
It is not the only outfit planning this. Similar internet-via-satellite arrays are under development by privately owned OneWeb and by Boeing.
The system would provide a space-based alternative to cable, fibre-optics and other terrestrial internet access currently available. However, it will be more expensive and probably require higher powered phones.
SpaceX did not say when its launches would occur. The satellites would be launched into orbits ranging from 714 miles to 823 miles above the planet.