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A Tesla launched into space in 2018. Photo: SpaceX via Getty Images

Beginning in 2020, Hypergiant Galactic Systems and the nonprofit Arch Mission plan to deploy the first in a series of small satellites intended to serve as relay points in an eventual interplanetary internet, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: With humans looking to return to the Moon and push into deep space, there is increased demand for building up a telecommunications infrastructure in our solar system, similar to what exists on Earth. An interplanetary internet, which is an idea that NASA has researched and is based on open data protocols, could solve major communications and data transfer challenges that future explorers will face.

The satellites could also serve as data storage devices to back up information from Earth and provide it to deep space explorers or even intelligent life from other planets, should they exist, who may be seeking information about human civilization.

The big picture: The first satellite will be a cubesat launched to the LaGrange point between the Earth and the Moon. This is where the gravitational forces between the Earth and the Moon are balanced by the centrifugal force of a third, smaller body. At such a location, a spacecraft can be parked in place for a long period of time.

  • The pairing up of Hypergiant Galactic Systems and the Arch Mission Foundation means the satellite network will also store huge amounts of data, serving as space-based libraries of life on Earth.
  • According to Arch Mission Foundation's co-founder, Nova Spivack, the first Lagrange library between the Earth and the Moon will be a proof of concept mission that will contain a backup of planet Earth.

"Think of it as an offsite backup for the planet," Spivack tells Axios.

  • Over time, Arch Mission aims to establish a solar system-wide network of libraries.
  • Additional launches are planned for 2021, with satellites sent to other Lagrangian points.

Between the lines: Because planets along with their moons and the sun are in constant motion, the satellites will need to be able to communicate with other nodes in the system by first calculating where they are, in case another object (such as a planet) is blocking them.

They will then have to determine on their own what the best way to get data from point A to point B is, Spivack and Hypergiant CEO Ben Lamm tell Axios. There will still be delays in communications due to the huge distances involved, but the goal is to minimize the lag time.

  • To accomplish this, Hypergiant is developing an AI-driven satellite operating system that is intended to give the satellites an automated way of navigating and decision-making in orbit.

The backstory: The Arch Mission Foundation has already placed data on at least 2 spacecraft, with the installment of a "Lunar Library" on board SpaceIL's Beresheet lunar lander, scheduled to touch down on the Moon's surface in April.

Previously, Arch Mission placed data on board the red Tesla that SpaceX launched into orbit around the sun during its test launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket in 2018.

  • Hypergiant Galactic is a new player in the burgeoning private sector space industry, having spun out of the AI company Hypergiant Industries in February when the company purchased Satellite and Extraterrestrial Operations and Procedures (S.E.O.P.S.), a Houston-based satellite deployment and services firm.
  • That purchase gave Hypergiant Galactic the ability to launch cubesats via the International Space Station.

My thought bubble: The company that successfully lays the groundwork for a space-to-space communications system stands to reap the rewards by charging others for using the network. That said, human exploration beyond low Earth orbit is still years away, and there are significant technical hurdles to overcome before an interplanetary internet comes to fruition.

Go deeper: Axios' Space Deep Dive

Go deeper

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

57 mins ago - Health

Omicron hits American hospitals disproportionately hard

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

America is seeing more COVID hospitalizations than other wealthy countries during the Omicron surge, according to Our World in Data.

Why it matters: Vaccines keep the vast majority of COVID cases out of the hospital, but vaccination rates are also lower in the U.S. than these other countries.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull.
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free — Government website for free COVID tests launches early.
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker