Elon Musk’s private rocket company, SpaceX, has sent 60 small satellites into low orbit as he prepares to launch a new internet service.
The tech entrepreneur hopes Starlink will generate cash for his other ambitions in space, which include flying paying customers to the moon and trying to colonise Mars.
“We think this is a key stepping stone on the way towards establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon,” the billionaire said.
The satellites were carried on a Falcon 9 rocket which blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
After releasing the satellites, the craft’s main-stage reusable booster rocket flew back to Earth and landed safely on a barge in the Atlantic.
This batch of satellites is the first of about 12 needed to provide constant internet coverage of most of the world, Mr Musk said.
Initially, Starlink is only authorised for use in the US, and he faces stiff competition.
OneWeb launched satellites in February, while LeoSat Enterprises and Canada’s Telesat are also intending to create data networks.
Each network will use tiny satellites positioned closer to earth than more traditional communications satellites.
That has been made possible by advances in laser technology and computer chips.