Review: SpaceX receives billion dollar investment from Google and Fidelity
On Jan. 19, technology blog “The Information” first reported that Google was “close to investing in rocket maker SpaceX [(Space Exploration Technologies Corporation)].” The Information stated that “[t]he purpose of a deal, which is still in the works, is to support the development of SpaceX satellites that could beam low-cost Internet around the globe to billions who don’t have it.” This announcement places SpaceX’s aspirations of a space-based internet system at the forefront of events to open the commercialization of space.
Later in the day, the Wall Street Journal picked up the story and reported that Google was “close to investing roughly $1 billion in [SpaceX] to support its nascent efforts to deliver Internet access via satellites.”
The Journal went on to explain that “[t]he investment would value SpaceX . . . . at more than $10 billion” and that is wasn’t “clear what exact stake Google could end up with in the fast-growing space company.”
On Jan. 20, SpaceX confirmed the reports by stating that it had “raised a billion dollars in a financing round with two new investors, Google and Fidelity. They join existing investors Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Valor Equity Partners and Capricorn. Google and Fidelity will collectively own just under 10% of the company . . . . This funding will be used to support continued innovation in the areas of space transport, reusability, and satellite manufacturing.”
The Washington Post reported that “[i]n November, [SpaceX’s CEO Elon] Musk suggested that SpaceX was working on the idea” and just “last week, the billionaire investor hosted a private event in Seattle to launch an office dedicated to satellite Internet.”
NBC News reported that “[t]he fresh round of financing came just days after . . . . Musk visited Seattle to kick off a new project aimed at putting up to 4,000 satellites into low Earth orbit to provide low-cost Internet access.”
According to the New York Times, “[t]he move could help Google achieve its aim of bringing satellite Internet to remote corners of the world while giving SpaceX more money for its founder to pursue dreams of going to Mars.”
However, as reported by the Washington Post, a possible obstacle to the proposed satellite system is that [t]here are [only] two main ways of getting data to and from space: radio waves and lasers. Lasers . . . . [are] incredibly accurate . . . . and can transfer information at speeds approaching the best that terrestrial Internet has to offer, [but] . . . . laser beams get scattered by things like clouds, meaning they’re useless for delivering information in bad weather.”
“[T]he backup . . . . is to use a tried-and-true technology: radio waves . . . . [but] SpaceX . . . . doesn’t have a license to use the spectrum it would need to actually beam the Internet down to the masses. If it can’t get the spectrum, and if the laser option doesn’t pan out, SpaceX will have a tough time developing a sufficiently robust satellite network.”
This most recent development highlights the successes that SpaceX has encountered since its inception in 2002. The NewSpace firm has made increasing inroads with the U.S. space agency, NASA, with its inclusion in the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, Commercial Resupply Services and Commercial Crew Programs. SpaceX is one of only two U.S. aerospace firms to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and is preparing itself for the task of delivering astronauts to the orbiting lab in 2017.
Scott earned both a Bachelor's Degree in public administration, and a law degree, from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. He currently practices law in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood. Scott first remembers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center in 1978 to get an up-close look at the first orbiter, Enterprise, which had been transported to Huntsville for dynamic testing. More recently, in 2006, he participated in an effort at the United States Space and Rocket Center (USSRC) to restore the long-neglected Skylab 1-G Trainer. This led to a volunteer position, with the USSRC curator, where he worked for several years maintaining exhibits and archival material, including flown space hardware. Scott attended the STS - 110, 116 and 135 shuttle launches, along with Ares I-X, Atlas V MSL and Delta IV NROL-15 launches. More recently, he covered the Atlas V SBIRS GEO-2 and MAVEN launches, along with the Antares ORB-1, SpaceX CRS-3, and Orion EFT-1 launches.