You have to hand it to Tony Stark, err, I mean Elon Musk. The man helped to co-found PayPal and he’s the CEO of Tesla Motors, which has brought us wonderful electric vehicles like the Roadster and the outrageous Model S P85D. Musk also helms SpaceX, which just recently made its fifth successful trip the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver supplies via the Dragon capsule. The secondary mission of the latest ISS launch resulted in the “successful failure” of the Falcon 9 rocket, which Musk described as a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) event.
And let’s not forget that Musk is also the chairman of SolarCity, which produces commercial- and consumer-grade solar panels. You would think that Musk already has enough on his plate, but you’d be dead wrong. In addition to his Hyperloop side project, Musk is eyeing a space-based Internet network that would be comprised of hundred of micro satellites orbiting roughly 750 miles above Earth.
The so-called “Space Internet” would provide faster data speeds than traditional communications satellites that have a geosynchronous orbit of roughly 22,000 miles. “Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” said Musk. He hopes that the service will eventually grow to become “a giant global Internet service provider,” reaching over three billion people who are currently either without Internet service or only have access to low-speed connections.
And this wouldn’t be a Musk venture without reaching for some overly ambitious goal. The satellite network would truly become a “Space Internet” platform, as it would form the basis for a direct communications link between Earth and Mars. “I think this needs to be done, and I don’t see anyone else doing it,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek.
Musk’s endgame is to help establish a colony on Mars and all of the pieces of the puzzle (including SpaceX’s rapidly-reusable Falcon rockets) are slowly coming together. "The reason SpaceX was created was to accelerate development of rocket technology, all for the goal of establishing a self-sustaining, permanent base on Mars," said Musk at the 33rd annual International Space Development Conference in May of last year. "And I think we're making some progress in that direction — not as fast as I'd like."
Space Internet would also help to fund Musk’s efforts to establish a colony on Mars; well, that and the half billion price tag for a private citizen to make the trip according to his calculations.