SpaceX has filed documents seeking to trademark the name “Starlink” for a satellite network that could provide global broadband access to data and video services as well as Earth imagery and remote sensing.
The California company’s satellite unit operates primarily out of facilities in Redmond, Wash., and is working stealthily to develop a constellation of thousands of satellites that would be launched into low Earth orbit.
When SpaceX’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, announced the multibillion-dollar satellite project during a Seattle visit in 2015, he said it would open the way for low-cost broadband internet access around the world and potentially provide the revenue for the company’s Mars settlement program.
But the trademark application, filed in August, also leaves the door open for “satellite photography services” and “remote sensing services, namely, aerial surveying through the use of satellites.”
The application first came to light this week on Reddit’s SpaceX discussion forum. In addition to filing documents focusing on satellite services, SpaceX filed a second set of documents focusing on the satellites, receivers and other products that would be required for the services.
SpaceX hasn’t said much lately about its plans for a satellite constellation, but in the past there have been hints that initial prototype satellites could be launched as early as this year. During his 2015 visit, Musk estimated that it would take five years and $10 billion to get the satellite network off the ground.
The company has more than 50 job openings at its Redmond offices, with most of them in the satellite development unit.
Lots of other ventures are targeting the same types of satellite services that Starlink could offer. OneWeb is working on a plan to provide global internet access from low Earth orbit by as early as 2019, and this month, SES unveiled plans to expand its broadband O3b satellite constellation in medium Earth orbit.
On the imaging side of the satellite market, Seattle-based Spaceflight Industries’ BlackSky subsidiary is ramping up plans for a 60-satellite constellation. Other startups with low-Earth-orbit constellations for Earth imaging and remote sensing include Planet and Spire, both headquartered in San Francisco.
Musk is expected to reveal more about his master plan for space commercialization and Mars colonization next week at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia.