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Mars Communications Networking The Internet

Elon Musk's Proposed Internet-by-Satellite System Could Link With Mars Colonies 105

MojoKid writes You have to hand it to Elon Musk, who has occasionally been referred to as a real life "Tony Stark." The man helped to co-found PayPal and Tesla Motors. Musk also helms SpaceX, which just recently made its fifth successful trip the International Space Station (ISS) to deliver supplies via the Dragon capsule. The secondary mission of the latest ISS launch resulted in the "successful failure" of the Falcon 9 rocket, which Musk described as a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) event. In addition to his Hyperloop transit side project, Musk is eyeing a space-based Internet network that would be comprised of hundred of micro satellites orbiting roughly 750 miles above Earth. The so-called "Space Internet" would provide faster data speeds than traditional communications satellites that have a geosynchronous orbit of roughly 22,000 miles. Musk hopes that the service will eventually grow to become "a giant global Internet service provider," reaching over three billion people who are currently either without Internet service or only have access to low-speed connections. And this wouldn't be a Musk venture without reaching for some overly ambitious goal. The satellite network would truly become a "Space Internet" platform, as it would form the basis for a direct communications link between Earth and Mars. It's the coming thing.
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Elon Musk's Proposed Internet-by-Satellite System Could Link With Mars Colonies

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  • Talk about Lag Time!

    But, I bet the Ads would make it through.

  • Beyond borders (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Of course, the idea that satellite Internet could replace land based connections is silly, as the idea that satellites in LEO could beam data to Mars.

    The real thing about cheap satellite Internet is censorship.

    In an fantasy world, a transmitter should be cheap, small and unlocalisable from ground.

    In the real world, some goverment would kill people for merely possessing an antenna.
    And hundreds of microsatellites is more space junk, making even more dangerous orbital tourism.

    • Re:Beyond borders (Score:5, Insightful)

      by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @05:38PM (#48846475)

      A few hundred satellites at 750 miles altitude are not really that much of a problem, unless you're orbiting at the same altitude. Space is big. Even LEO is big.

      I think we do need an international agreement on orbital bands. Human spaceflight OK in some bands, others reserved for cheap junk, others reserved for expensive junk, so the cheap junk doesn't take out the expensive junk or the humans.

      • It is actually calling for a few thousand satellites, but you are correct.... not that big of an issue considering the area that they are spread out over

        I have to wonder, considering the Branson announcement, which billionaire is trying to distract from which billionaires actual commitment

        Musk has the lead in the form of an actual, demonstrated, launch capability, but Branson made it to press a few days earlier

      • Re:Beyond borders (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @06:32PM (#48846757) Homepage

        Orbits are many, valuable orbits not so much. The first few hundred kms are unusable due to atmospheric drag. Then comes LEO and the optimal solution is usually as close as possible, greater bandwidth/resolution, lower latency, shorter orbital period and more payload, less fuel. Then a lot of empty space before GEO, which is obviously quite narrow because otherwise it wouldn't be geo-synchronous and everyone who wants to receive signals need a much more expensive and complicated tracking antenna and multiple satellites to keep 24x7 coverage. True there's certain differences with frequency bands as well, but not anything like in space.

        I'd rather just invest in cell phone towers (you can daisy chain these with point-to-point beams if cables are unfeasible/too expensive) and smartphones. Some 92% of the world's population is already covered by a cell phone signal, more people in India have cell phones than running water. They just don't use it for the Internet, yet. Because I really doubt the world's poor is going to have satellite reception equipment, this will be a fixed thing for schools and such. But then you'd probably do just as well using the cell phone network as the "last mile" and have a few big Internet gateways to the sky.

      • Space is big.

        "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space." - Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

        • Space is infinite, it is dark
          Space is neutral, it is cold
          Stars occupy minute areas of space
          They are clustered a few billion here
          And a few billion there
          As if seeking consolation in numbers
          Space does not care, space does not threaten
          Space does not comfort
          It does not speak, it does not wake
          It does not dream
          It does not know, it does not fear
          It does not love, it does not hate
          It does not encourage any of these qualities
          Space cannot be measured, it cannot be
          Angered, it cannot be placated
          It cannot be summed up, spa

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is this the Teledesic [] saga all over again (early funding by Bill Gates & others)?

    • Yeah, it's the same thing almost exactly, only 20 years later. That significantly reduces the cost of the hardware, I suppose, but there's also less market-not-being-served now than there was then so both the cost and the revenue arguments are significantly impacted.

      • by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @06:23PM (#48846713)

        It really depends on how many sats SpaceX can jam into one launch and how much of their capacity is already committed to other contracts

        Teledesic was dependent on other companies for launch, the one demo sat they put up was using Orbital's Pegasus

        • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Sunday January 18, 2015 @10:29PM (#48847645) Homepage Journal

          Yeah, I'm a bit worried about what this means for SpaceX, having worked for Boeing when they were trying to push for more communications satellites to help fill up their launch schedules.

          A lot of these services (Iridium, or even Metricom Ricochet) might be considered business failures but technological successes. The networks still operate and serve their primary customers (I believe the Ricochet is used by law enforcement)... it's just the shell companies that tried to sell excess bandwidth to the public that failed financially.

          Huh actually, the wikipedia page for Iridium mentions that SpaceX is launching the Iridium NEXT satellites this year to be more data-focsed than voice-focused: []
          Not sure if this SpaceX constellation is being launched to augment this, or if it's just a business ploy to negotiate more favorable prices with their customer by pretending to go into competition with them :P

          • by baegucb ( 18706 )

            Just so everyone knows, Ricochet was not satellite based. I still have their modem, but no longer live in an area they covered, so I'm not sure if they even still exist.

            • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

              Yeah it had a somewhat similar mesh network, though. I still see the little shoeboxes hanging down from the occasional streetlight in most metro areas, so I assume the richochet network is still being used for its stuff... even though a lot of municipalities have been working to upgrade their communications networks since 9/11

      • by green1 ( 322787 )

        Don't forget that SpaceX has also significantly reduced the cost of launches (with expectations that they will manage to reduce costs by another large margin yet). Between the two this is actually possible. Still a big, expensive, ambitious, project, but no longer impossible.

      • by Blaskowicz ( 634489 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @06:37PM (#48846789)

        I'd wager there's more demand for Internet access in Africa now than 20 years ago, or in other places remote or deprived of infrastructure. The cost back then of getting a 486SX computer (or in 1997, a Pentium laptop), satellite transmission equipment, a way to power and maintain them would have been fantastical if you consider the market might be people without access to sanitation.

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @10:48PM (#48847731)

      SpaceX need something to launch to generate the economies of scale required in the launch market to really slash launch costs (i.e by mass-producing reusable rockets and flying them a lot). This isn't a bad one, and it could be much cheaper than previous attempts.

  • Musk also helms SpaceX

    Good thing too. Wouldn't want it going up there bareheaded.

  • that does not exist is hidden within the system somewhere.

    I guess it could be a backhaul for slow low priority internet traffic, but no customer in the 1st world would put up with the latency and lag given the current "centralized service" architecture of all internet services from Google, Facebook, WebMail, YouTube, "The Cloud" etc.

    It could be great for bandwidth expansion with a more distributed network model than what we have now for Internet services. Email and file transfers that don't need instan

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't matter how far away it is if it is cheap and my cell phone can receive the signals.

      I'd like to stream Netflix right now but I've already used the 3GB my cell phone provider allows me to use at 3G/4G speeds for the month. So for the next 12 days I am stuck on 2G speeds (enough to play 1 minute then buffer fill for 3, then play for about 1 minute and buffer fill for another 3 minutes).

      Streaming doesn't need low latency. Heck it doesn't even need lots of bandwidth. Give me 1 Mbps download rates and I'm

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      If you read the summary, they mention that this will be a low earth orbit constellation, and that it will be much faster than traditional geostationary satellite networks. If you read anything more than the summary, you'd see references to how data transmission through a vacuum is 40% faster than through a fibre optic cable.
      This will be competitive with terrestrial networks for most uses, and superior for long distances (such as anything that's currently on submarine cables)

      If you're referring to the Mars c

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      having more of them and on low altitude, they cold route it back to earth closer.

      much better than bouncing to the satellites that stay stationary(in regards of you) in space far, far away.

      basically the ping wouldn't be so bad.

      if it would be cheaper than building 3g connectivity on earth though, that's another thing.. and why the fuck even bring the mars trip to the issue at this point is beyond me.. putting a dedicated sat or two to support that trip would be pretty damn cheap compared to the total bill of

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Oh good, he got the hard part done. Now let's get started colonizing, smooooooth solar sailing from here on out!

  • by msk ( 6205 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @06:08PM (#48846641)

    . . . and ZMODEM, and other latency-friendly protocols. . . .

    • by Minupla ( 62455 )

      lol - exactly what I thought. Where's my floppy with OMMM (opus matrix mail masher, fidonet's answer to sendmail!).


    • by Rob Bos ( 3399 )

      Latency isn't too bad from LEO. Existing satellite systems work from geosync, which is worse. Some of the advantage will be eaten up by routing, and bandwidth will probably be pretty limiting. I'm interested in seeing how they solve the routing problem.

      • With Iridium the approach was to hand ff the transmission between satellites until it was within range of of a ground station to connect to a terrestrial network, or reach another satellite phone, usually one or two hops

        They may use a similar approach, although Iridium initially involved the governments in the countries that they maintained gateways in as part of the corporate structure. See Wired story, "The United Nations of Iridium" []

        It would make a lot of sense to use the

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      I still use Zmodem today through/via the Internet. ;)

  • reaching over three billion people who are currently either without Internet service or only have access to low-speed connections ....

  • by gizmo2199 ( 458329 ) on Sunday January 18, 2015 @06:18PM (#48846683) Homepage

    All of these articles have that tinge of 1950's science fiction: we'll all be living in magnificent under-water cities in 10 years, and everyone'll have a jetpack!

    All we need to do is build an underwater city...and jetpacks. But in reality it's that our cities will be under water in 10 years.

    • Be thankful you can escape using your jetpack, then!

    • Anybody who can live in Manhattan or Beijing could be perfectly happy living on Mars. Probably, half the population of Lahore would be much happier.

    • Instead of jetpacks, everybody ended up with personal RPGs. Instead of underwater cities we have underwater suburbs. [].

      Anyway, getting groceries on Mars would arguably be easier that at the top of Everest or the bottom of the Marianas trench. There is something to be said for having a large, non-moving flat spot to live on, even if it means never going outside. Sure, there remains lots of uninhabited space on earth, but start by writing off pretty much all the oceans... a little matter of the occasional 10 me

    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      The difference is that a space based internet is useful. Underwater cities and jetpacks, no so much.
  • All these things make me worry about Kessler Syndrome. Maybe we need some kind of international LEO traffic control body, to regulate and assign safe orbits, track junk, and whatnot.

    • Nah leave it to the Free Market. there's nothing that the Free Market can't do. That's why no one has died of cancer or starvation since Adam Smith invented it in 1760.
  • So we can have Internet content beamed at us to consume.

    Yo can get satellite Internet right now, it is available everywhere. And is perfectly fine if you view the Internet as a sort of alternative TV where distributors provide content for your consumption.
    • What do you mean? Is the lag on satellite Internet connections too high to do anything interactive? Low-orbit satellites would avoid that. Or is the uplink capacity too low to do anything other than request downloads? I'm not sure that there'd be any technical reason for such a limitation.

      Personally, I'd love to have more options in Internet connectivity. Not every location in the world is supplied by the perfect ISP at a low cost.

      • In general, at least in the past. The problem with Satellite internet is that you have like dial-up upload paired with huge/normal broadband down. I think, actually, in general you do not get a transmitter, you literally rely on dailup to contact your ISPs servers, who then transmit their response down to you through the satellite. It is possible that the power, expense, and feasibility of a single satellite receiving a million concurrent transmissions, has been solved with advances in technology. But I cou
        • Well, lets see, if we've got a couple thousand of satellites, and we've got 510 million square miles of land area on Earth, that's an average of less than 250,000 square miles per satellites, or a 282 mile radius each. And of course there will be fair amount of overlap between satellites, since you're 750 miles up and you're going to have at least that ground radius with excellent line-of-sight and only moderate signal falloff. That will also mean most overseas satellites will have LOS with the coast, givi

      • Iridium is LEO and it works great, as long as you are at 2400 baud. There are pesky issues, like doppler shift, the speed of light, the transmission power required... you know, those pesky laws of physics.
  • Can't do much about that speed of light thing. Web browsing becomes an email-like experience. Wow, finally everybody gets to experience the internet just like RMS!

    TCP become a hugely inappropriate protocol. Something like Rsync over UDP would be way better. Slow start... give me a break. Ditto, most of TCP.

    Twitter stops being relevant at all, who cares about tweeting old news, or hearing it. Refining a web search... just don't bother, instead SCP Earth's entire web archive once a year and incrementally upda

    • Eh, obviously rcp, not scp....

  • This maybe a potential game changer for Telcos/ISPs. There is still a lot of money made in this business.

    If SpaceX internet is capable of high bandwidth, no data-limit or a reasonable limit, not too crappy latency and allows me to use it everywhere, then it maybe very interesting.
    Except for gaming, this offers what most people need AND you can take it with you (if the equipment to connect is reasonably mobile)!

    If I can get an internet connection, that I can 'take with me' on my holidays abroad, which allows

  • Effort has been underway for quite some time - by folks such as Vint Cerf, no less - to facilitate Internet over long delays. Surprisingly, there has been terrestrial (or aquatic) applications in the research as well, for example solar-powered sensor networks that can only transmit during daylight hours.

    There's a nice overview architecture draft from 2003, especially interesting bits are in the routing section (12.3-12.4), see [] - the eventually published RFC []

  • Please stop with the Elon Musk circle jerk.

    • Please stop with the Elon Musk circle jerk.

      Elon Musk attracts interest because he does interesting things. That, IMHO, is one of the better ways to attract interest.

  • The hard part of communicating with and between Mars colonies over a network of micro-satellites is setting up the Mars colonies.

Disks travel in packs.