PointView Tech, a subsidiary of Facebook, was reportedly building a multi-million dollar experimental satellite meant to deliver internet to Earth from orbit. The secret project was spotted last May on a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), though Facebook remained mum on the technology, until now.
The social networking giant has confirmed to CNET that it is developing a satellite technology dubbed Athena which will work to beam data from low-Earth orbit to rural areas where internet connectivity is limited or unavailable. Facebook didn't share specific details of the project, but it will likely compete with similar initiatives being undertaken by OneWeb and SpaceX. According to the FCC filing, Athena could provide broadband connectivity that's 10 times faster than SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites.
Wired also reports that the satellite is set for space launch in early 2019 in pursuit of its ambitious efforts to bring people from every corner of the world online. In June 2017, Aquila, Facebook's solar-powered drone designed to provide internet connectivity to remote areas, successfully landed during its second test flight. However, that project was shut down last month after Facebook decided it would no longer build its own aircraft and instead continue its partnership with Airbus to develop a high altitude platform station.
With Athena now official, it's interesting to see how Facebook's move to deliver internet from orbit using millimeter wave radio signals will pan out.