More Questions About the Rumoured Google Satellite Constellation

I’ve been following this story for months and today after the recent Space News and Wall Street Journal articles I penned down my thoughts for a SpaceRef Business article. Read it here.

Other questions I didn’t cover in the article include:

Who would build the 180-360 satellites? That would be a huge contract. Would Google buy the expertise and do it in house?

Which leads to another question. Who would launch the constellation?

My first thought would be SpaceX.  After all Brin, and Page both appear to be friends with Musk. But would Google do the unthinkable and create their own launch company? I don’t think so. There needs to be a business case.

If they are going to launch smallsats then a Falcon 9 can launch at least 8 at a time using a Moog secondary payload adapter. They would need 23 launches if sending 8 up at time. At a current advertised launch cost of $56.5 million per launch Google would pay SpaceX approximately $1.3 billion for the launches.  If they had an adapter ring that could launch more satellites per launch, that would reduce the price even further. A Falcon 9 can launch 13,150 kg to LEO so there’s room for more satellites per launch.

With that many launches and the possibility of reduced flight cost if the Falcon 9 Reusable comes  online in time, Google could see that launch cost slashed. The very rough projected cost to build 180 satellites was estimated at $600 million. Add in development costs and you come within the $1-3 billion range reported for the project. Note, all numbers are rough estimates based on published reports and available data.

The question is, will they build it?