Science | December 23, 2019 11:38 am

Report: Apple Explores Satellites for Internet Data

Get ready for iSputnik, or something without nearly as cool a name

Starlink
A new report suggests that Apple is planning something akin to SpaceX's Starlink.
SpaceX/Creative Commons

Part of what makes the internet distinctive is the way its infrastructure is set up — a complex blend of technologies new and old, in a constant state of flux. Now, an ambitious new plan from Apple might well take the internet to its next frontier, and it’s a familiar one indeed for anyone with a fondness for space exploration.

Bloomberg is reporting that Apple is in the process of setting up an ambitious project which could use satellites to beam data directly to devices. Mark Gurman writes that the project involves a number of experts in satellite technology:

“The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker has about a dozen engineers from the aerospace, satellite and antenna design industries working on the project with the goal of deploying their results within five years, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal company efforts.”

Gurman also writes that Apple CEO Tim Cook has been supportive of this plan.

A report from ZDNet suggests that some caution might be in order; in other words, this initiative might also involve shoring up some of Apple’s existing products. “Apple could also be hiring engineers with satellite experience just to improve maps and location tracking services, which again could feed into its services business,” writes Liam Tung.

Writing for the Observer, Sussi Cao observes that this proposed satellite plan could mean that Apple is thinking of establishing something like SpaceX’s Starlink project. This, in turn, could lead to a recurrence of an issue that cropped up earlier this year, when astronomers argued that the Starlink satellites were interfering with their ability to see the stars. 

Earlier this month, SpaceX announced that it would make its satellites dimmer to mitigate this impact According to this report, a number of Starlink launches are planned for 2020 — so if Apple has something similar planned, orbiting the planet might get just a bit crowded.

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