Elon Musk's SpaceX project has today launched 60 satellites as part of an ambitious plan to beam the internet anywhere on Earth.
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Starlink satellites blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 10.30pm local time (2.30am GMT Friday).
Entrepreneur Musk hopes the scheme will eventually raise enough money to fund his plans to establish a colony in space.
The launch came a week after two back-to-back countdowns for the mission were scrubbed – once due to high winds over the Cape and the next night in order to update satellite software and "triple-check" all systems.
The 60 satellites flown into space were released into orbit as planned about an hour after Thursday's launch.
The Falcon 9's main-stage reusable booster rocket flew back to Earth for a successful landing on a barge floating in the Atlantic.
A SpaceX spokesman said it would probably take another day to learn whether all the satellites deployed were functioning properly.
Each weighs about 500 pounds (227 kg), making them the heaviest payload carried aloft by SpaceX to date.
They represent the initial phase of a planned constellation capable of beaming signals for high-speed internet service from space to paying customers around the globe.
"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," said billionaire Musk, who is also chief executive officer of automaker Tesla Inc.
At least 12 launches carrying similar payloads are needed to achieve constant internet coverage of most of the world, he added.
For now, Starlink is only authorised for US operations, although Musk faces stiff competition.
Airbus SE-backed OneWeb launched its own clutch of satellites in February, while LeoSat Enterprises and Canada's Telesat are also working to build data networks.
In each network, the tiny objects orbit closer to Earth than traditional communications satellites.
Musk said SpaceX would begin approaching customers later this year or next year.
As many as 2,000 satellites will be launched per year, with the ultimate objective of placing up to 12,000 into orbit.
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