Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has broken a lot of records but this one takes the cake. The social media behemoth is set to launch its first satellite into space and it is all for a good cause. The satellite is designed to beam internet service to unconnected residents of Africa. The launching is slated on September 3, aboard a rocket that would be launched by SpaceX, a commercial space company owned by Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO, Elon Musk.
The world’s largest social media platform teamed up with French satellite operator Eutelsat for the project. A Eutelsat representative confirmed the launch date, tweeting that the satellite would generate a “powerful new broadband platform for Eutelsat and #Facebook in Africa.”
Meanwhile, Facebook reps declined to comment on the project, instead saying that CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the deal with Eutelsat October last year in a post, which revealed the company’s plans to “beam Internet access from space to large parts of West, East and Southern Africa.”
“We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing Internet services provided through satellite,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We’re going to keep working to connect the entire world — even if that means looking beyond our planet.”
About 1.7 billion of the world’s population is on Facebook. But it seems like Zuckerberg is not satisfied with the number of its active users. Back in August, the Facebook CEO launched Internet.org, an alliance with tech companies whose goal was to offer free internet connectivity to the far reaches of the world. The space launching is a step forward to fulfilling this goal. However, offering internet to every man, woman, and child, is also good for the company, in terms of revenues, according to Micah Walter-Range, director of research and analysis for the Space Foundation, a nonprofit space-industry educational group in Colorado.
“As long as Facebook can keep adding regular active users, then that looks good for its growth stats even if the users aren’t going to generate much revenue, at least in the short term,” Walter-Range wrote in an email. “So it makes sense to seek out new user bases as developed markets reach the point where all the people who are likely to use Facebook are already doing so.”
Several companies are also involved in the project. Facebook and Eutelstat are leasing internet service capacity board the Amos-6, a satellite made Space-Communication Ltd. or Spacecom, an Israel-based company. Spacecom recently announced that it is being acquired by the Beijing Xinwei Technology Group for $285 million.
According to Spacecom, the satellite would require 11 days from launching to reach its destination. If testing is completed, the satellite will replace the older model, which is located in the same orbit. Apart from offering connectivity in Africa, the satellite will also provide internet to Europe and the Middle East.
Phil Larson, a spokesman for the private commercial space venture said the launch will be scheduled on the Falcon 9’s upcoming mission.