Why is Elon Musk launching satellites and where did he make his money?

If you’ve looked up in the night sky in the past few days you might just have clapped eyes on SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, creating a string of moving lights across the heavens.

The satellites, which are moving across the sky from west to east, come from SpaceX, the private company founded by Elon Musk – and passed through UK skies for around six minutes just after 9.30pm last night.

So just what is the purpose of the satellites – and what else do we know about Elon Musk and SpaceX?

Here’s what you need to know…

Why is Elon Musk launching satellites into space?

The satellites are designed to beam down an internet signal to the entire planet.

At the moment there are 300 Starlink satellites in place but SpaceX aim to eventually have 12,000 orbiting the planet.

The satellites appear in a line across the night sky – and if you missed them in the UK last night then you’ll still have another chance to catch them.

They’ll be visible again tonight at around 10.10pm, as well as at around 3.40am in the early hours of Friday 24 April.

They should be clearly visible without a telescope but if you want to try and see them you’ll need to keep light around you to a minimum.

How did Elon Musk make his money?

The South African-born billionaire founded web software company Zip2 in 1995, along with his brother Kimbal – which was sold to Compaq in 1999, with Musk receiving $22m (£17m) for his share of the sales.

He used part of that money to found the online financial services company X.com – which later became PayPal following a merger in 2000 – and when that sold to eBay two years later he earned $165m (£133.5m).

He is also one of the co-founders, CEO and product architect of Tesla Inc, having taken on the CEO role in 2008 – which he still holds to this day.

Musk founded SpaceX – or Space Exploration Technologies – in May 2002, with $100m (£81m) of his fortune.

The company’s aim is to develop and manufacture space vehicles with a focus on advancing rocket technology.

As of April 2020 he is said to be worth around $38m (£25bn) – making him the 23rd richest person in the world.

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