SpaceX, the Elon Musk-owned company that plans to launch the rocket carrying UAE's Sultan Al Neyadi and his three fellow astronauts to space on Thursday, has successfully launched its second-generation Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit.
Musk shared footage on Twitter of the Falcon 9 launch, which took place on Tuesday morning from the Space Launch Complex at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
He also shared a video showing the Starlink second-generation satellites reaching orbit.
SpaceX is planning another launch on Tuesday night of 51 Starlink satellites from the Space Launch Complex at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
The company has about 4,000 Starlink satellites in orbit. It conducted a record 61 orbital launches in 2022, including a significant number for Starlink.
The second generation of satellites offers four times the capacity which means they "provide more bandwidth with increased reliability", according to SpaceX.
Starlink's network of low-orbit satellites is designed to deliver high-speed internet services to the world, particularly remote and rural locations.
Subscribers can engage in data-hungry online activities — gaming, streaming, video calls and more — that would otherwise be impossible.
The satellites orbit the planet at a much closer distance than typical satellites, making high-data-rate activities easier to support.
The space-based system, which communicates with ground-based sensors, has been used in conflict-affected areas by civilians without internet connections.
SpaceX reached an agreement with the Ukrainian government to use the service for humanitarian purposes such as providing broadband internet to hospitals, banks and families affected by Russia's invasion.
However, SpaceX said this month it had taken steps to prevent Ukraine's military from using the service for controlling drones in the region, Reuters reported.
"We know the military is using them for comms, and that's OK," Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief operating officer, said during a conference.
"But our intent was never to have them use it for offensive purposes."