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Solar-powered drones, laser beams, internet satellites and a city on mars. These all might sound like something from a Star Wars movie, but they’re actually projects conceptualised by some of the biggest leaders in tech today. And it’s oh so exciting.
As first reported by The Information, Google and Fidelity has just invested US$1-billion in the private space exploration company SpaceX, claiming 10% of the company’s shares. If anything, this cash injection reiterates that the 21st century Space Race is on.
The move is complemented by the search giant and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s ambitions to conquer the space frontier within the next few years — beaming fast internet to 3 billion people around the globe.
Google has been very active in its experimental Project Loon which looks to bring internet connectivity through balloons riding wind currents.
Furthermore, we’ve seen Google’s ambitions within this space last year when it bought Skybox Imaging, an imaging satellite company.
The next space race: high-speed internet
Whether this is the new Space Race or not, Google’s definitely not alone. Both the world’s biggest social network and Virgin and Qualcomm have readied their investments in satellite companies and expensive research.
To keep well within the range of this story’s sci-fi tone, Facebook is developing satellites, solar-powered drones and lasers through its Connectivity Lab. This coincides with the Internet.org initiative which is looking to bring affordable, high speed internet to parts of Africa and Asia.
Virgin and Qualcomm recently invested in OneWeb — an internet satellite company that wants to improve access to the web. It’s worth noting that Qualcomm is also a member of the Internet.org initiative.
Elon Musk — the tech billionaire behind SpaceX, Tesla Motors, SolarCity, the HyperLoop and PayPal — a few months ago tweeted that he wants to bring low-cost internet satellites to the world. With Google’s backing, this might just come sooner as we think.
Chatting to Bloomberg last week, Musk noted that we shouldn’t expect to see the internet satellites up-and-running within five years’ time.
“The speed of light is 40 percent faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber,” Musk says. “The long-term potential is to be the primary means of long-distance Internet traffic and to serve people in sparsely populated areas.”
Musk also notes that the internet satellite initiative will put him and the respective investors back about US$10-billion, though he sees it as a long-term initiative for “funding a city on Mars.” His words.