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AH Tech Talk: Alphabet’s Interest In SpaceX

February 15, 2016 - Written By Daniel Fuller

Space exploration outfit SpaceX gained themselves a fair bit of fame when they sent a rocket into space, had it drop off a payload, then successfully brought it home in one piece. With Tesla front-man Elon Musk at the helm of SpaceX, it’s no big surprise to see them innovating in bold ways. This kind of achievement was almost entirely new; even NASA rockets wound up in shambles in the ocean on the way home, in most cases. SpaceX had made it clear they were no common outer space company, if such a thing existed. Their goals were more out there and, in some ways, more practical than those of more than a few people, and companies took notice. Among them were Alphabet and financial outfit Fidelity. Between the two of them, they pumped a cool $1 billion in capital funding into SpaceX, earning themselves a 10 percent stake. On Fidelity’s part, the reason for investing was clear; with things like a possible migration to Mars and space satellite re-purposing on the menu, SpaceX stands to make a pretty penny in the future, if they keep doing what they’re doing. Alphabet’s reasons for investing are a bit less clear, however; the list of possibilities is fairly long, from financial interests, commercial use of outer space and spacecrafts or even just to have their names in the history books when and if SpaceX makes a huge leap for humanity, which seems to be exactly what they want to do.

Alphabet may, of course, be in it for the money in the same way Fidelity is. If that’s the case, they may have already seen a return on their investment. SpaceX has not only successfully landed a rocket, they’re planning to do that with 70 percent of the rockets they launch in 2016. They also plan to launch a new type of spacecraft in the private market, called the Falcon Heavy. The Falcon 9, the rocket they managed to land intact, will see a few variants using improvements dreamed up from observing the landing and looking over relevant data. On top of that, entirely new lines of rockets are planned for creation at some point. It should go without saying that these moves will increase SpaceX’s value exponentially, leaving Google with a pretty penny to look forward to, should they choose to cash out.

There are a ton of other possibilities, of course; imagine a 5G modem broadcasting from space. The technology may not be there quite yet, but it’s a possibility, if not an inevitability, to see it advance in that direction. This would be Project Loon on a whole new level. With consumer space travel seemingly imminent, Google could also become the first network provider, and perhaps the only, for interplanetary travelers. Using SpaceX as a personal installer for a satellite network is also not entirely out of the question. A move like this would allow Google, with the right government approvals and papers, to establish an entirely new network for just about any use they wanted. Offering their own space travel service hand in hand with SpaceX sounds unlikely, but could also be a possibility here. In all honesty, the number of possibilities is nearly immeasurable; Outer space is, after all, the final frontier and Alphabet has been known to come up with some fairly off the wall ideas.