updated 08:13 am EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Network of 180 satellites will reportedly provide Internet to remote areas
Google is exploring the possibility of launching its own satellites into space, according to a report. The Wall Street Journal claims the search company is planning to invest more than $1 billion on a fleet of small satellites that could be used to spread Internet access into areas of the world that are not covered by more traditional forms of connectivity, such as cellular or wired connections.
The initial project allegedly involves a team of between 10 and 20 people reporting to Larry Page, headed up by Greg Wyler, a founder of satellite start-up O3b Networks. Sources claim the project will start with 180 small satellites orbiting at lower altitudes compared to the majority of other satellites, with the project set to cost somewhere between $1 billion to more than $3 billion. Each satellite could weigh less than 250 pounds, a small payload in comparison to 1,500-pound satellites O3b have experimented with.
O3b Networks satellite
The satellite project echoes an earlier balloon-based version Google X revealed last year. Project Loon used a network of balloons flying at twice the altitude of commercial planes to form a network, connecting to base stations at homes and businesses. By raising or lowering in altitude, the balloons can navigate an area using stratospheric winds, and in turn maintain a coverage area. The altitude-based path finding would use software algorithms, a system that the satellite project could end up reusing for its own network. Google also purchased drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace, another company that could help with both projects.
The report comes shortly after another rumor, suggesting Google is looking into acquiring Skybox Imaging for upwards of $1 billion. While Skybox deals with satellite imagery, it is possible these satellites could perform double duty, allowing Google to not only provide Internet access, but also take high-resolution images or video of regions, which could offer the company real-time data for locations instead of the periodic slices of time used in Google Maps.