Report: Elon Musk eyeing partnership to launch 700 internet satellites

SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk’s next venture could be small satellites equipped to provide internet to remote corners of the world, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Sources told the paper that Musk and former Google executive Greg Wyler are in talks with officials in Florida and Colorado about the construction of a satellite factory.

The project is apparently in its early stages, and it is not clear that Musk will actually see it through. Wyler previously headed up Google’s satellite division, and is now the founder of WorldVu Satellites, which owns a segment of the radio spectrum that the satellites could use to provide internet. The two are searching for a partner that has experience in the satellite industry.

Current plans call for around 700 satellites that each weigh less than 250 pounds, according to the WSJ. That is much lighter than the several tons more traditional satellites weigh, but still heavier than the flocks of shoebox-sized satellites on which space startups like Planet Labs and Spire rely. A fleet of 700 satellites has never been done.

If the partnership moves forward, the WSJ indicated Musk would use his expertise from Tesla and SpaceX to develop the factories. Each satellite would cost less than $1 million to produce, which is relatively inexpensive. The satellites would be released from SpaceX’s stable of rockets.

Wyler proposed a similar plan during his time at Google, but his “relationship with Google soured in part because he wasn’t sure the search giant had sufficient manufacturing expertise,” according to the WSJ.

Musk and Wyler would join some big names in pursuing internet for the entire globe. Google and Facebook plan to use a mix of satellites, drones and high-altitude balloons to get the rest of the world online. If they succeed, it could dramatically increase their customer base.