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Here’s Why Facebook Is Thinking About Launching a Satellite Into Orbit

July 23, 2018, 1:57 PM UTC

Facebook is reportedly considering launching a satellite into orbit early next year and has met several times with the Federal Communications Commission over the past two years to work out the details.

Wired, using information gleaned from Freedom of Information Act requests, uncovered emails showing discussions between the agency and the social media giant. The satellite, called Athena, reportedly would be used to provide broadband Internet service to areas of the world that do not have connectivity.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Fortune that the Athena satellite belonged to the company, but it did not have additional details to provide at this time, saying “While we have nothing to share about specific projects at this time, we believe satellite technology will be an important enabler of the next generation of broadband infrastructure, making it possible to bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is lacking or non-existent.”

Satellite internet at present is slow, but some companies, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and now Facebook, believe clusters of smaller satellites in a low-earth orbit could make higher speed service more widespread (much like a mesh Wi-Fi system in homes).

Athena would likely be a part of Facebook’s program, which provides regions of the world that lack Internet access with an online connection. The company says it provides service for roughly 100 million people at present.

Facebook has attempted a satellite launch once before, loading one onto a 2016 SpaceX flight, but that ship exploded at launch, which cooled the company’s enthusiasm at the time.

There is, of course, the chance the company could opt not to launch Athena. Earlier this year, Facebook announced it had stopped in-house efforts to build high-flying drones that could deliver internet service to rural areas.