Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Google Businesses Communications Space The Almighty Buck The Internet

Google Pondering $1 Billion Investment In SpaceX's Satellite Internet 105

mpicpp writes with a report that Google is close to finalizing an investment in SpaceX to fund the rocket company's vision for satellite-based, low-cost internet access. According to The Information (paywalled), Google is one of many investors for this round of fundraising. The Wall Street Journal (also paywalled) reports Google's investment at $1 billion. They add, "It is likely to take years to establish designs and potentially set up a specialized satellite-making facility. But SpaceX already has some important building blocks. Industry officials said the company builds its own navigation and flight-control systems for spacecraft, which could provide some elements for satellites. There also are synergies between parts SpaceX makes today for solar arrays on spacecraft and such devices intended for satellites."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Google Pondering $1 Billion Investment In SpaceX's Satellite Internet

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Awesome

    • by D.McG. ( 3986101 )
      Stargate was the first thing that came to mind in the prior story regarding SpaceX's Satellite Internet; which described the ultimate goal of an internet connection to Mars. Perhaps it would look something like this:

      McKay/Carter Intergalactic Gate Bridge [wikia.com]

      Then again, this bridge was between two galaxies, not two planets within the same solar system and an obstruction (the sun) to contend with once a year.
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      There's a little unspoken benefit about what a true, affordable, universal-coverage broadband system could provide for: drones. Envision drones that can provide high quality real-time streaming (commands to the drone, imagery back) without requiring line of sight or effective cellular service.

      Individuals and companies could get the sort of drone communication that today only exists for militaries. Buoyant drones (hydrogen, helium) could stay aloft for long periods and go anywhere. Conceivably a hydrogen-pow

  • Man, I could only imagine the PayPal fees on a $1 billion transaction!

    • Nice joke, but PayPal is designed for moving small amounts of money that usually cancel out. (Ex. Somebody uses a Chase credit card to pay an eBay seller who banks with Citizens, then later in the day, someone uses a CItizens card to pay somebody who banks with Chase.)

      $1 Billion usually can move with the help of the US Treasury Bank... every real bank has a large supply of money there, destroyed and waiting to be reprinted.

      • You realize you are stating the obvious?

        • There isn't enough obvious statements being made right now. Who's playing Captain Obvious, or is it obvious that I have to do it?

      • by slew ( 2918 )

        $1 Billion usually can move with the help of the US Treasury Bank... every real bank has a large supply of money there, destroyed and waiting to be reprinted.

        Okaaaay... Now, what planet did you say you were from again? ;^)

        On the odd chance you were attempting to be serious, you probably are thinking about electronic transactions through FedWire or CHIPS (the industrial strength versions of ACH and EFT). The US Treasury doesn't move any money around for anyone but itself, nor does any bank actually reprint money that is transferred...

        However, it is unlikely that these would be used for a simple equity transaction like this. More likely you would see such a tran

        • The myth that "There's only $5,000,000 in US dollars in print" is a bit off course but getting closer to true. Some "vaults" willingly admit that they destroy the paper bills and they can claim them back from the US Treasury Bank by having them print new paper bills with the destroyed bill's serial numbers.

          Remember, The Treasury has at times taught that if somebody hands you shredded bill you can send it to them, hope they can solve the puzzle to prove how much money was there, and they they'll send you new

  • Needed! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The New Guy 2.0 ( 3497907 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @07:33PM (#48853129)

    With Hughes and Wildblue both complaining they're full... this is really needed for the people who wires don't reach. It's not any fun for twitch games, but it does allow YouTube or other video streams to work well. Go Google!

    • Re:Needed! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @09:42PM (#48853663)

      These are low-earth orbit satellites. Musk says he's expecting latency around 20-30ms. That's much higher than DSL or cable are capable of, but should be low enough for twitch gaming.

      The satellites aren't very far away, and light travels much faster in vacuum than through fibre optic cable.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That is equivalent to my ISP (Cable company). Where can I sign up?

      • Re:Needed! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Blaskowicz ( 634489 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @03:20AM (#48854567)

        That's much lower than my first DSL connection and on par with a good one I'd say.

      • The satellites aren't very far away, and light travels much faster in vacuum than through fibre optic cable.

        Define: "Much faster" :)

        It is slower in fiber, but not half the speed...

        • Re:Needed! (Score:4, Informative)

          by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Tuesday January 20, 2015 @04:41AM (#48854729)
          Fused silica has a refractive index of approx 1.5. so light is 33% slower in fiber. But that is not the whole story since group velocity and phase velocity are mode dependent. I assume it is all single mode however at that would be in the ball park.

          Diamond has a index of refraction of 2.4, so fibers made of diamond (there are reasons to use diamond :) so signal speed would be 1/2 c.

          Over 1/2 of lag however is in the switching.
          • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

            Musk has stated that due to lack of geographic obstructions, there could be up to an order of magnitude less hops in space while passing the signal from satellite to satellite. Of course, that assumes that the routing latency in the satellites is similar to a traditional router.

      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        Most DSL are about 20m-50ms at best due to the way the lines are set at the ISP. As in first hop 50ms ping even if your all at the same ISP. (can't remember the details, something about the ATM setups often used etc)
        • Theres a couple of causes

          One is something called interleaving, DSL uses forward error correction algorithms to provide resistance to noise/interference. However these algorithms fall apart if there are too many bit errors in a block. To reduce the chance of this happening in the face of interference spikes they interleave the blocks (such that a burst of interference has a small effect on multiple blocks rather than a large effect on one block) but this comes at a price in terms of latency. At least here in

      • The problem with the current solutions isn't ping time, they've done all they can about that... the problem is they're full and afraid more users would result in a throughput problem during peak times. That's why somebody needs to launch another service at another location, and Google seems to be stepping up to that task.

        • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

          If ViaSat-1 really did fill up so soon after launch, then ViaSat-2 (scheduled to launch in mid-2016) should help. They already have 600,000 customers, so clearly the demand is there.

  • Business model? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mbstone ( 457308 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @07:35PM (#48853141)

    So how is the business model going to be different than that of Iridium [wikipedia.org]? How much will they have to charge, will it be profitable, and what's different this time?

    • Iridium went for worldwide phone service... and that meant wasting signal over places that had no customer. This seems to be yet another plan to do North American-area Internet service, which is currently full at current providers.

      • This seems to be yet another plan to do North American-area Internet service, which is currently full at current providers.

        *Straightens tinfoil hat*

        Imagine if you will, you have the ability to deploy satellite interwebs pretty much everywhere. Now, not only can you get everyone connected to the interwebs (your interwebs), you can also see if you can compete with terrestrial interwebs.

        Now when the next bit thing hits the interwebs, people just upgrade their receivers, and all those miles of cable doesn't ne

        • I'm not worried so much about ulterior motives. I'm worried about all that space junk when the upgrade.

          Hello tech support? Can you, um, upgrade our 2400 satellites to gigabit, please? Sure, I'll hold.

          • By design the satellites should have small final booster to push them low enough to be grabbed by atmospheric drag. Or if they are geo orbit a final booster to push them into one of the agreed parking orbits.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is Google. No one know if it will be profitable, it will take many of us mere mortals to understand what to do with it. Inevitabley it will see overwhelming adoption.
      At which point Google will cancel it.

    • So, think about this ... billionaires are pooling their resources to both improve space technology, and to provide a commodity they already make money on ... allowing them to use that commodity to make even more money.

      This is the beginning of Weyland fucking Yutani, mark my words. :-P

      Private corporations may soon have more space technology than the US government.

      Investing your many billions in profit to fund your future ambitions? Less of a business model challenge than you might think.

      It's also eerily cyb

      • I was ready to dismiss your comment, because who doesn't want better space technology? But it got me thinking, what happens when private space industry does start reaching or exceeding what the government can provide? Will the government have to bow out so as to not make the market "uncompetitive"? As much as I want to see private investment in better space technology, I don't want to see it entirely removed from the public sector.
        • Re:Business model? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @09:14PM (#48853559)

          The private sector already does most things better and more efficiently than the public sector. However there are a number of areas where even if the private sector can do it better they won't bother. These are the areas that there isn't money to be made in either the short or long term. Into these areas are where governments are traditionally expected to step in.

          As a silly example back around the late 1800s private enterprise didn't see enough value to build a brewery in Brisbane, Australia. So the state government built one. Then they sold it to private hands later.

          So in this example pure space exploration and research is unlikely to be funded by private entities at this time. So the government is still likely to be the one building and funding probes, deep space missions and the like and as a result will have to maintain a certain capability. Especially if the private sectors capability falls short of requirements.

          Another thing to consider, you have identified "uncompetitive" as the key driver in the government making decisions. I don't think they really care when it comes to core decisions.

          • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @09:38PM (#48853647) Homepage

            As a silly example back around the late 1800s private enterprise didn't see enough value to build a brewery in Brisbane, Australia.

            LOL, no disrespect ... but was there really a point at which someone thought it was too risky to build a brewery in ... Australia?

            You're having us on, right? :-P

            • No Seriously! It was in the early days when Brisbane was really small and the investment in a brewery was significant because it required importing the bits from the UK.

              Once it was built though the state government used it to pay workers on some of the projects that were built around the city. The Story Bridge was constructed in the 30s as a work creator during the depression. During that time the workers were paid a small amount of cash and beer. The beer was given to them at the start and ends of the

              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

                The beer was given to them at the start and ends of the shift.

                Is the bridge still standing? ;-) It was definitely a different era back in the 30s, before health and safety existed and drinking on the job was bad.

            • Next he's going to tell us they needed the beer to sedate the drop bears to stave off their relentless attacks. Naturally this was in the days before they discovered a bit of Vegemite behind the ears works just as well.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Yes, the efficient private sector is vastly more efficient at lots of things, like nearly destroying the world financial system through a mixture of greed and stupidity [wikipedia.org].

            Many causes for the financial crisis have been suggested, with varying weight assigned by experts. The U.S. Senate's Levin–Coburn Report concluded that the crisis was the result of "high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies, and the market itself to r

            • I'm failing the feed the troll part here. Firstly perhaps I should point out that "government enforced monopolies and taxpayer bailouts" are public sector?

              Nothing you have put there changes the fact that private sector is highly efficient and more efficient then the public sector at most things. You seem to have conflated the aims of the private sector, to make money, with some kind of over arching "should be guiding society to a better place" aim.

              Taking your financial example, the private banking sectors

        • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

          Let me know when I can call up NASA for a ride to space that I can afford on the salary of a software developer and then I'll care about the negative implications of the private sector developing ultra-cheap spaceflight.

      • Satellites aren't actually a new thing. NBC, CBS, and ABC have been using them for decades "to provide a commodity they already make money on ... allowing them to use that commodity to make even more money."

        You might also remember the big satellite TV dishes from the 1980s, and Dish Network, etc.

      • > Private corporations may soon have more space technology than the US government.

        That's already the case. NASA's share of total space industry is only 6% ($18 vs $300 billion/year). Commercial satellites have had ion thrusters for a number of years before the NASA Dawn spacecraft had them. For-profit corporations have more incentive to update their tech sooner, to get a competitive advantage.

    • by xdor ( 1218206 )

      I agree. Iridium bet everything on this strategy and lost. Their biggest reason: the unexpected proliferation and success of land-based transmission towers.

      The only thing different here is this is Google: and recently Google seems to be in deep with the US government. Maybe they want to spread the US topology further without having to be bothered about political barriers.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Iridium was competing against land lines. Cellular killed it. Iridium was hard-wired to do 9600 baud for data (modem speeds). This time they understand the market, and it isn't on the edge of massive change. Iridium was conceived in the mid '80s, and contracted/designed in the early '90s.

      It also was the first of its kind, something that's not the same "this time". They didn't realize it would have very poor coverage, which limited it's usability.
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      The difference is 20 years of digital transceiver developments. They have been substantial.
      • Space solar arrays are also 2.5 times as efficient than in 1998. That's because they now use triple-layer cells, that convert more of the solar spectrum to electricity. The biggest shift will be if SpaceX can reuse their rocket stages. They are already the low-cost launch provider, and that would given them another factor of 3 or so in cost.

        Reducing launch cost also will reduce satellite cost. The cost optimum is when the marginal cost of removing 1 kg from the satellite = the marginal cost of launching

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 19, 2015 @07:49PM (#48853205)

    Why post links that are paywalled? Sigh. Here's the full article.

    Google Nears $1 Billion Investment in SpaceX
    By Rolfe Winkler, Evelyn Rusli and Andy Pasztor

    Google Inc. is close to investing roughly $1 billion in Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to support its nascent efforts to deliver Internet access via satellites, according to a person familiar with the matter.

    The investment would value SpaceX, backed by Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk, at more than $10 billion according to this person. It isn't clear what exact stake Google could end up with in the fast-growing space company.

    If Google completes the deal, it would be the Internet company's latest effort to use futuristic technology to spread Internet access to remote regions of the world, alongside high-altitude balloons and solar-powered drones. By extending Web access, Google increases the number of people who can use its services.

    Spokesmen for Google and SpaceX declined to comment.

    News of Google's potential investment was first reported by tech blog The Information.

    Google has been considering satellite-based Internet service for more than a year. In late 2013, it hired satellite-industry veteran Greg Wyler, who at one point last year had more than 10 African-Americans working for him. Mr. Wyler left Google last summer and is now developing his own satellite-Internet venture.

    SpaceX builds and launches rockets and spacecraft. Mr. Musk last week described a general concept for SpaceX to launch hundreds of satellites into relatively low orbit to deliver Internet access across the globe. Mr. Musk told BusinessWeek the project could cost $10 billion to build and take at least five years, but gave no details about funding or manufacturing plans.

    Mr. Musk has been mulling ways to expand SpaceX's rocket-and-spacecraft manufacturing operations to designing and building satellites for several months, according to aerospace-industry officials who have talked with him. Though short on specifics, his latest comments were the clearest sign yet of a long-term commitment to such expansion plans.

    It is likely to take years to establish designs and potentially set up a specialized satellite-making facility. But SpaceX already has some important building blocks. Industry officials said the company builds its own navigation and flight-control systems for spacecraft, which could provide some elements for satellites. There also are synergies between parts SpaceX makes today for solar arrays on spacecraft and such devices intended for satellites.

    Another unanswered question is how SpaceX plans to transmit Internet signals to Earth. The company isn't believed to control rights to radio spectrum.

    Mr. Musk has discussed using optical-laser technology in his satellites, according to a person familiar with the matter. That technology works by beaming information from satellites in space. But lasers wouldn't be a reliable way to deliver Internet service to Earth because, unlike radio waves, they don't easily pass through clouds.

    The talks are somewhat unusual for Mr. Musk, who has resisted most outside investments that could reduce even slightly his control over SpaceX. Industry officials said if problems arise, SpaceX might need additional capital in the next few years to fund new rocket development and more launches. It isn't clear what terms are under discussion.

    The Wall Street Journal reported Mr. Musk's interest in satellite-Internet service in November, saying he was talking with Mr. Wyler.

    Mr. Wyler last week said his new venture, OneWeb Ltd., had secured funding from Richard Branson's Virgin Group and chip company Qualcomm Inc. Mr. Wyler said he hopes to provide Internet service from a constellation of 648 satellites in low-Earth orbit, using a large block of radio spectrum he controls. Mr. Wyler estimated the plan would cost as much as $ 2 billion.

    Messrs. Musk and Wyler stopped working together because of disagreements over control of any joint project, according to a person familiar with their discussions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Google has been considering satellite-based Internet service for more than a year. In late 2013, it hired satellite-industry veteran Greg Wyler, who at one point last year had more than 10 African-Americans working for him. Mr. Wyler left Google last summer and is now developing his own satellite-Internet venture.

      I had to re-read the article about five times trying to figure out what hiring African-Americans had to do with anything else. I still don't know.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What's the point of having diversity quotas if you don't tell everybody?

      • I had to re-read the article about five times trying to figure out what hiring African-Americans had to do with anything else. I still don't know.

        That looks like the author was trying to say that Google had hired multilingual African-Americans to be able to easily speak to African governments, locations that are known to be under-served in the Internet connection department. The theory being that Google could more easily grow a subscriber base where there is zero competition than where there is some competition.

        Then a hamfisted editor decided that made the article too long, and cut out three sentences and put in that stupid phrase.

    • by RandomAdam ( 1837998 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @08:02PM (#48853249)
      Wow just read this and the one thing that jumps off the page

      "Google has been considering satellite-based Internet service for more than a year. In late 2013, it hired satellite-industry veteran Greg Wyler, who at one point last year had more than 10 African-Americans working for him. Mr. Wyler left Google last summer and is now developing his own satellite-Internet venture."

      What kind of fucked up country are you living in where that is a salient point in an article about space based internet!!!! How is that relevant to the story?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the US, which is probably why they're highlighting that.

      • "Google has been considering satellite-based Internet service for more than a year. In late 2013, it hired satellite-industry veteran Greg Wyler, who at one point last year had more than 10 African-Americans working for him. The five remaining are apparently grateful to have jobs and to not have been shot by the police on the way to work. Mr. Wyler left Google last summer and is now developing his own satellite-Internet venture."

      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        What shirt does he wear?

    • by Hodr ( 219920 )

      "Google has been considering satellite-based Internet service for more than a year. In late 2013, it hired satellite-industry veteran Greg Wyler, who at one point last year had more than 10 African-Americans working for him."

      This statement seems completely out of place in the context of the article, was it posted on a site promoting African American's involvement with STEM career fields or similar?

  • by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @07:55PM (#48853227) Homepage
    This aligns with Google's interests (get everyone online to see ads), so it's an obvious investment. Elon has shown to be capable of getting shit done, so it's a safer investment than some previous attempts at low-orbit Internet (like Iridium) even ignoring the technical advancements we've had in the past decade. Plus, with the lifter and cargo owned by the same company (one that has proven capable of lower-cost-to-orbit) the economics work out better than ever.
  • Next they will be projecting them on the Moon.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @08:09PM (#48853277) Homepage Journal
    90 minute ping times will kill your head shots. All the people in the Mars cities are going to have to log into the Europa WoW servers.
    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      You not going to get 90 min pings from mars to Europa buddy. And if you are getting that, then where do i sign up!
  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Monday January 19, 2015 @08:32PM (#48853381)
    Sure - but where are we going to get a hyperloop that big and 3,000 WRT54Gs at THIS hour?
  • In 1997, Microsoft invested $150 million in non-voting shares of Apple. From a CNET article [cnet.com],

    Jobs, who took the stage to a standing ovation, said that the Microsoft investment cannot be sold for three years and covers non-voting shares in the company.

    If Elon Musk accepts investment money from Google, I suggest he accept it non-voting shares. Mr. Musk wouldn't want Google to push SpaceX to use Google hardware and software, and not use products of Google's competitors. He'd want complete freedom to use whatever products were best for SpaceX.

    • push SpaceX to use Google hardware and software

      Are we talking about Google Docs in space? Google Glass for astronauts? What hardware or software are you talking about? Do you have the fainest clue about space rating anything? It's not going down to Best Buy and getting a laptop with TurboTax, you realize, right?

      • by myid ( 3783581 )

        Heh, no, I wasn't thinking about SpaceX buying Merlin engines for a Falcon 9 from Google. I was thinking about it buying more standard items, like cell phones for its employees to use. And of course, SpaceX has to provide desktop or laptop computers for its employees at the workplace. That kind of stuff.

        They have to decide which company to buy the things from, and which OS to use.

        • by myid ( 3783581 )

          I wasn't thinking about buying phones or computers from Google, of course. I was thinking that for example, Google would prefer to have companies controlled by Elon Musk buy Android phones from Samsung than buy iPhones from Apple.

  • Please make them easily re-fuelable AND establish a real refueling system. Hell, add in the ability to replace / upgrade parts during the pit stops.

    We have to stop making future space junk.
    • Please make them easily re-fuelable AND establish a real refueling system. Hell, add in the ability to replace / upgrade parts during the pit stops.

      It seems obvious that if you want to support on-orbit refueling, you had better support on-orbit upgrades too. Satellites are basically big piles of electronics with solar wings. What iterates faster than electronics? Nothing. So if you're going to go to the trouble to maintain longevity on-orbit, you're going to want to update them when they're obsolete too.

      That said, replaceable parts always make for a bigger device than an integrated system. Traditionally the space industry has counted and begrudged

Computers don't actually think. You just think they think. (We think.)

Working...