SpaceX said it plans to launch thousands of satellites on Falcon 9 rockets beginning in 2019 to establish what would one day become a global broadband internet constellation.
Patricia Cooper, SpaceX's vice president of satellite government affairs, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that the company is aiming to launch 4,425 small satellites to low Earth orbit beginning in 2019, with full deployment expected by 2024. All would launch in phases on Falcon 9 rockets.
Spacexwill start testing the satellites themselves, launch one prototype before the end of the year and another during the "early months" of 2018. Following that, SpaceX will begin its satellite launch campaign in 2019.
"The remaining satellites in the constellation will be launched in phases through 2024," Cooper said before the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology on Wednesday.
The internet communication satellites are expected to be in the smallsat-class of 100-to-500 kg (220-to-1,100 lb)-mass, which are intended to be orbiting at an altitude of approximately 1,100 kilometers (680 mi). Initial plans as of January 2015 are for the constellation to be made up of approximately 4000 cross-linked satellites, more than twice as many operational satellites as are in orbit in January 2015.
The satellites would be mass-produced, at much lower cost per unit of capability than existing satellites. Musk said "We're going to try and do for satellites what we've done for rockets." "In order to revolutionize space, we have to address both satellites and rockets." "Smaller satellites are crucial to lowering the cost of space-based Internet and communications.