SpaceX plans to launch first satellite prototype for its Internet constellation this year

SpaceX intends to launch its first satellite prototype later this year as the company moves forward with plans for a network of thousands of small satellites to provide high-speed broadband Internet access.

The Hawthorne company, whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp., then will launch a second satellite prototype in early 2018. If those demonstrations are successful, SpaceX plans to launch its first operational satellites a year later.

Patricia Cooper, the company’s vice president of satellite government affairs, laid out some details of the plan Wednesday in testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The remaining satellites will be launched in phases through 2024, she said, and all satellites will ride into space aboard SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.

Wednesday’s Senate committee hearing focused on broadband infrastructure developments. Other witnesses included a representative from Nokia Corp., as well as state and local leaders.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk announced the company’s plans for the “satellite constellation” in 2015, saying at the time that the effort — which he estimated would cost $10 billion to $15 billion — was similar to “rebuilding the Internet in space.”

The company has established an office in Redmond, Wash., near Seattle, to focus on developing the satellites, which are to be about 13 feet long and about 6 feet wide, with 19-foot-long solar arrays. SpaceX says the constellation will eventually comprise 4,425 satellites.

In her prepared testimony, Cooper also asked Wednesday that Congress consider broadband satellite system infrastructure for any infrastructure investment opportunities. President Trump has pledged to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

Twitter: @smasunaga

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