Elon Musk’s SpaceX says it will begin launching Internet-providing satellites in 2019.
The move was announced Wednesday by SpaceX vice president of satellite and government affairs, Patricia Cooper, in testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
She said the company eventually plans to field 4,425 small satellites into low Earth orbit by 2024 using the company’s partially reusable Falcon 9 rockets.
"SpaceX intends to launch the system onboard our Falcon 9 rocket, leveraging significant launch cost savings afforded by the first stage reusability now demonstrated with the vehicle," Cooper said, adding the company will field two prototype satellites by the end of 2017 and in early 2018.
Internet access via satellites can be slow, but Cooper said technological advances will make SpaceX able to offer speeds comparable to terrestrial providers.
The company says Internet speed in the U.S. lags behind other developed countries. Furthermore, rural areas are not served by standard broadband providers. The company’s “constellation” of satellites could deliver high speeds without cables.
Cooper added that space-based Internet avoids some of the pitfalls for terrestrial providers.
"In other words, the common challenges associated with sitting, digging trenches, laying fiber and dealing with property rights are materially alleviated through a space-based broadband network," Cooper said.