Developers say they are less than a year away from deploying prototype satellites that could someday soon broadcast universal internet all over the globe from high in orbit.
The “Outernet” project being bankrolled by the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) of New York is currently in the midst of conducting technical assessment of the project, but say by June they hope to develop test satellite in order to see how long-range WiFi would work if beamed down by a tiny 10x10x10-centimeter payload called a CubeSat.
If all goes as planned, a test CubeSat will be sent into orbit next January, and within a few years there could be hundreds of similar devices circling the Earth and sending back down internet signals. Once that is accomplished, countries that largely censor the web — like China and North Korea — would be hard-pressed to restrict internet access without also going into orbit.
“We exist to support the flow of independent news, information, and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies,” MDIF President Peter Whitehead told the National Journal recently. “It enables fuller participation in public life, holds the powerful to account and protects the rights of the individual.”
To accomplish as much, though, MDIF is facing a rather uphill battle, at least with regards to funding. Funnily enough, sending hundreds of tiny WiFi ready satellites into orbit isn’t as inexpensive as one might imagine.
During a recent question-and-answer session on the website Reddit, Karim explained that the Outernet project is already being more affordable because some of the most expensive aspects of the endeavor, at least with regards to research, have already been considered by other entrepreneurial space experts.
Around 40 percent of the planet currently doesn’t have access to any sort of internet service, the company claims, but basic CubeSats could send one-way signals down to earth to deliver news or content through a “global notification system during emergencies and natural disasters,” their website says.
Meanwhile, his group is gunning to figure out how to make that dream a reality without going over budget. Getting one of those tiny CubeSats into orbit could cost upwards of $100,000, Brown reported, and slightly larger satellites being considered by Outernet could run three times that.
So there we have it…
Wireless internet broadcast from hundreds of tiny satellites orbitting the Earth may not sound so ridiculous in a few years!