Google Close to Investing $1 billion in Elon Musk's SpaceX Company

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Google Chairman Eric Schmidt speaks at a Motorola phone launch event in New York. Brendan McDermid/REUTERS

Google is close to investing in Elon Musk's private spaceflight company, SpaceX, with The Wall Street Journal reporting that the search engine giant will is in the process of finalising a $1 billion investment meaning that SpaceX Would be valued at more than $10 billion.

At an opening of a SpaceX branch in Seattle last week, Musk unveiled plans to launch 700 satellites, synchronized with earth's rotation which could provide global internet access. One of the advantages of such a system, Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek, is that data would not have to be redirected through earth-bound networks, but could transfer from satellite to satellite until it finds its destination and is beamed to antennae back on earth, thus making for a faster connection.

"The speed of light is 40% faster in the vacuum of space than it is for fiber," explained Musk. The plan would provide low-cost internet access not only to the world, including isolated and impoverished areas, but to Mars as well, where Musk has been planning to establish a colony and build a city in the coming decades - the main objective for SpaceX.

Silicon Valley companies, like Google and Facebook, have been jostling to expand their consumer base by providing web access to the three billion plus people who have poor access to the internet or none at all.

Mark Zuckerberg founder of Facebook, has spoken of his intentions to experiment with drones that could act as global connectivity hubs and transmit internet signals around the globe. Technology entrepreneur Greg Wyler recently announced a similar, though smaller, scheme called OneWeb, which would also used satellites that could send signal down to rooftop antennas.

Up until now, Google had been toying with Project Loon, a scheme which would provide internet to inaccessible parts of the world using a network of weather balloons. The balloons would float in the stratosphere, the middle part of the earth's atmosphere composed of different layers of wind, each with their own speed and direction. The Loon balloons would rise or descend to enable them to travel where they were needed. People could then connect to the balloon network which would relay the signal back to earth.

Pilot testing was successful in New Zealand in 2013, and continued in California and Brazil

but it's unclear whether this experimentation will continue if Google do invest in SpaceX.

SpaceX, the first private company to launch a rocket into orbit and return it to earth, would appear to be well equipped to deliver on its promise of providing global internet coverage, while Musk's vision of inhabiting Mars seems to be moving ahead too.

Last year, he told CNBC: "I hope that the first people could be taken to Mars in 10, 12 years… the thing that matters long term to have a self-sustaining city on Mars and to make life multi-planetary", and last week he told Bloomberg Businessweek: "It will be important for Mars to have a global communications network as well... I don't see anyone else doing it."

Google Close to Investing $1 billion in Elon Musk's SpaceX Company | Tech & Science