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Apple’s Secret Satellite Project – Beaming Internet to Devices



Apple is working on secret projects with dedicated teams. For instance, we have a look at Apple AR Headsets, Apple Cars over the years ago. Now Apple has a top-secret research team looking for new satellite technology. The plan is to beam internet connectivity to user’s devices. This approach will reduce reliance on wireless networks.

Cupertino – California-based iPhone maker has hired a dozen experienced engineers. The engineers are specialists in the fields of satellite, aerospace and antenna design. They are working on the project to show the outcomes in the next five years. But, the project is on the initial stage and could leave. It is because of the lack of clear direction for the use of satellites.

Apple’s project of satellite constellation:

Apple is working on the next-generation wireless technology and communication satellites. The aim is to link devices, bypassing the traditional broadcast networks. Apple may also go for improved maps and new features by searching space stations. These features can lead to more precise location tracking for its devices.

Satellite constellation as Apple’s special project:

Apple Chief Executive Officer (CEO) – Tim Cook, has marked the project as a company priority. The satellite technology project is one of the “special projects” of the company. However, Apple will follow the development of its satellite constellation or would go for existing satellites. It’s a matter to finalize yet.

Major satellite makers:

Some of the biggest satellite makers are:

  • Northrop Grumman Corp.
  • Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Boeing Co.

    Other satellite technology projects:

    Apple is not the only incorporation to look up at the sky as:

    • Amazon has planned a project, known as ‘Kuiper.’ The aim is to utilize greater than 3,000 satellites for future constellation.
    • SpaceX by Elon Musk is another company to work on the Starlink project. The company has already launched 60 satellites into space.

    Reasons for failure of former ventures:

    The industry has to face failures in previous satellite constellation ventures such as:

    • Iridium Satellite LLC failed in 1999 due to bankruptcy protection filing. Iridium Satellite LLC, an American company, is now known as Iridium Communications Inc. The company worked to launch a satellite constellation of 66 active satellites. These satellites use data communication from satellite phones.
    • Globalstar Inc. also had to leave its project due to bankruptcy protection filing like Iridium LLC. Globalstar Inc. was working on a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. The system launched 48 operational satellites.
    • Teledesic cut out its ‘internet from the sky’ plan to launch 288 active satellites more than a decade ago. The cut out is because of the commercial failure of the Iridium and Globalstar projects. Teledesic was a company founded in 1994. The company aim was to launch a satellite constellation for broadband internet services.

    Tim Farrar – principal at TMF associates

    Tim Farrar is the principal at Telecom, Media and Finance (TMF) associates. As a satellite expert, he explains the failures as:

    “The lessons of prior failures like Iridium, Globalstar and Teledesic are that it’s tough to find a viable business plan for multibillion-dollar satellite communications projects.”

    Satellite constellation projects of Amazon, SpaceX, and Facebook are far from generating profit. Apple rarely enters such doors which opens into the shorter revenue generation.

    The hiring of Aerospace Engineers for the satellite project:

    Recently, Apple has hired new software and hardware experts. The company seeks efficient engineers to design components for communication equipment. The company has further added two Google executives, Michael Trela and John Fenwick. These experts are from the aerospace and wireless data delivery fields. Trela and Fenwick led Skybox, a satellite imaging company before Google owned it in 2014. The pair also led satellite and spacecraft operations of Google. Finally, they both joined Apple in 2017.

    Trela and Fenwick work at Apple:

    Earlier at Apple, Trela and Fenwick explored the feasibility of developing satellite technology. In recent months they have intensified their work on the project. But, the effort underwent a setback following Greg Duffy left Apple after joining in 2017. Duffy co-founded camera startup Dropcam, which Google bought in 2014. Duffy reported to Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering, Dan Riccio. On his LinkedIn profile, Duffy mentioned his general work at Apple. His work was about satellite communication, wireless, and home technologies. But he didn’t disclose his specific work at Apple.

    Trela and Fenwick are still working at Apple within the hardware engineering division. But they report to Riccio’s lieutenant instead, having control of iPhone engineering.

    The hiring of different field specialists:

    The secret satellite team also hired the following specialists from various fields:

    • Ashley Moore Williams from Aerospace Corp. is hired as a longtime executive. Williams’ focus was on communication satellites.
    • Daniel Ellis is a former executive at Netflix Inc. who supervised the Content Delivery Network (CDN) of the company. He has experienced in network building to beam content globally.
    • Matt Ettus, a wireless network engineer, helps lead the initiative at Apple. He created a National Instruments Corp.-owned firm, Ettus Research. This firm sells equipment related to wireless networking.

    Other projects of Apple:

    Apple is also working on:

    • The debut of virtual reality headset shortly up to 2021
    • Reality glasses
    • MicroLED screens for future devices
    • New home products
    • Self-driving car technology
    • An Apple watch for analysis of the user’s blood chemistry to determine glucose levels.

    Also, Apple is expanding its in-house chip development.

    • To replace Intel its Mac processor maker.
    • To substitute Intel and Qualcomm Inc. as its Modem component provider.


    Under the leadership of Tim Cook, CEO Apple:

    • Apple is increasing its budget for research and development. The company has spent $16 billion in the fiscal year 2019. The budget shows an increase of 14 % from the previous fiscal year.
    • Apple has set its primary goal to bring more technology behind its house product range. It’s a dream that the satellite constellation project could fulfil.


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