Apple Is Secretly Working On A Satellite Program

By Amit Chowdhry ● December 21, 2019
  • Apple is reportedly working on a project involving satellites and wireless technology in order to find new ways to beam data like Internet connectivity directly to its devices

Apple is reportedly working on a project involving satellites and wireless technology in order to find new ways to beam data like Internet connectivity directly to its devices, according to sources with Mark Gurman of Bloomberg. Apple has about a dozen engineers from the aerospace, satellite, and antenna design industries to work on the project. The goal is to deploy results for the project within five years.

The work on the project is still early and Apple could decide not to fully deploy it. If Apple is able to beam data to the device of its users, Apple could reduce its dependence on wireless carriers. Or it could also like devices together without traditional networks.

Plus Apple may also explore satellites for precise location tracking for its devices thus enabling improved maps and new features. However, it is not clear whether Apple is planning to pursue the development of a satellite constellation or utilize on-the-ground equipment that would take data from existing satellites and send it to mobile devices.

Over the last few months, Apple has been hiring software and hardware experts for this team and the company is also pursuing engineers with expertise in communications equipment.

This satellite project is being led by Apple Director John Fenwick and Apple Director of Hardware Engineering Michael Trela. Both of them are former aerospace engineers who helped launch satellite imaging company Skybox Imaging (acquired by Google in 2014). And they led Google’s satellite and spacecraft efforts until 2017. After joining Apple, they reported to Greg Duffy — who ended up leaving Apple in June 2019 to launch The Duffy Organization.

Now they are reporting to Apple’s senior vice president of hardware engineering Dan Riccio. The satellite team also hired Matt Ettus. Ettus is known for launching wireless networking equipment company Ettus Research back in 2004 (acquired by National Instruments in 2010).

Plus Apple hired Ashley Moore Williams — who was most recently the director of studies and analyses office at The Aerospace Corporation.

And Apple also brought in former Netflix executive Daniel Ellis last year. At Netflix, Ellis led a higher performance team of engineers to work on the Netflix CDN.