For the better part of the last 3 years I have been covering two emerging businesses quite extensively for my previous websites. The first is a satellite based data storage initative called Space Belt, proposed by a revolutionary new company called the Cloud Constellation Corporation with intentions to place cloud data servers in orbit around the Earth. The second is a new startup by none other than Elon Musk himself, called Starlink, which intends to create a worldwide global satellite internet network, theoretically accessible by anyone anywhere on the planet at any moment in time once the project is finally completed.
Connecting some of the dots, yesterday on Twitter I featured a report by a new cyber security startup called Rapid7, detailing their findings that each Fortune 500 company in the United States hosts, on average, databases or data storage centers with over 500 active internet connections. Meaning that, in theory, there are over 500 different ways through which malicious hackers can find their way into these systems. This is essentially what Space Belt sets out to solve, hosting massive data storage centers in orbit around the Earth far removed from internet connections on the ground. The only way to access Space Belt’s infrastructure would be through a single encrypted connection on ground level, hosted by the company itself – whom will be the only party allowed to upload and download data from it. In doing so, the Cloud Constellation Corporation hopes to offer THE most secure enterprise data storage solutions on the planet – or should I say “universe?”
Full 34 Page Report from Rapid 7: https://content.rapid7.com/rapid7-industry-cyber-exposure-report-fortune-500
— SpaceBelt™ (@SpaceBelt1) September 12, 2017
However, it must be noted that this proposed service has been in the works for nearly 3 now, and despite the release of new hype videos year after year, such as the one featured above, little has actually been done in terms of getting the project off the ground and operational – no pun intended. The fact of the matter is that for however cool it sounds, at least for the time being, Space Belt remains nothing more than a theoretical data storage solution.
The second business I would like to talk about is a little more complex and involves the launching of anywhere between 5,000 – 12,000 satellites over the course of the next 2 -15 years. Officially called Starlink, the project aspires to create the single largest globally accessible internet network in human history. Using thousands of satellites launched into low Earth orbit, Starlink is designed to allow its users/customers to connect to the internet anywhere on Earth at any given moment in time. Meaning that, theoretically, a Star Link customer would have the same level of internet access in the middle of the Amazon Rain-Forest or Sierra Desert as they would have in downtown New York City – and everywhere in between.
However, given the proposed size and scope of the operation, still in its beginning phases in 2018, Starlink has suffered from set back after set back since being introduced to the public in 2015. With that said, it does not mean that the project is entirely dead in the water either. In fact, earlier this year, in February 2018, Elon Musk successfully launched the first two experimental Starlink satellites into orbit, which have been operational and continually communicating information back to data centers on the ground ever since.
First two Starlink demo satellites, called Tintin A & B, deployed and communicating to Earth stations pic.twitter.com/TfI53wHEtz
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 22, 2018
In a deal struck with the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this past March, Starlink was officially given permission to launch its first round of commercial satellites into orbit by the end of this year- under the conditions that SpaceX must launch at least 2,213 satellites into orbit by 2024, and the full payload of 4,225 by 2027. After this date, SpaceX has until 2033 to launch 3,759 more, and until 2036 to launch the full payload of 7,518. However, according to their original business plan, SpaceX intended to launch its first 400 satellites into orbit by the end of November 2018 – something which has obviously failed to happen.
As a result, at least for the time being, Elon Musk has started fund raising to help expedite getting his project off the ground. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal earlier today, December 18th 2018, Elon Musk is currently seeking $500 million dollars from international investors. According to the report, Musk is personally willing to stake over $10 billion dollars into the project himself over the course of the next decade, with stock experts projecting Starlink to eventually be worth over $30 billion dollars by the time it’s complete. As of today, Starlink stock is trading at $136 a share and Musk hopes to sell enough stock totaling $500 million to fund his first delivery of satellites into space.
Perhaps ominously though, not only has Starlink continually suffered from set back after set back over the years, but just earlier this week the President of DirectTV, another satellite based communications business, announced that the company will no longer be buying anymore satellites to invest in or grow their business in the future – with industry experts projecting the company itself to go out of business or bankrupt within the next 10 years. Ironically, DirectTV only has the rise of internet-based online streaming services to thank for its financial demise.
Lastly, believe it or not, dating back to 2015 Mark Zuckerberg was actually the first entrepreneur to attempt to bring broadband speed internet service via satellite. However, following SpaceX’s explosion on the runway in 2016, which was set to deliver Zuckerberg’s satellites into orbit, the project was put on hold. Not only this, but a few months before the incident international authorities ruled Facebook’s free internet initiative violation of Net Neutrality laws and as a result of both incidents, both projects were abandoned entirely.
I only bring this up because Zuckerberg hired SpaceX to deliver his satellites into orbit, and he proceeded to lose close to $100 million dollars for doing so. With this in mind, whose to say that Elon Musk’s Starlink project might not too suffer from a similar tragedy one day just as well? Unfortunately, just as with Space Belt, while Starlink remains a fascinating, revolutionary and ingenious idea, it still nothing more than just a theory at this point – 3 years after the fact.