The two satellites are the first of an estimated 12,000 that will launch SpaceX into the telecommunications field, the company hopes. The system, called Starlink, is meant to connect people across the world to the internet, especially in developing areas.
The satellites will circle the planet in low-earth orbit, each one synchronized by SpaceX to emit radiofrequencies back to the surface. The plan calls for 4,425 satellites to orbit about 1,125 kilometers (700 miles) up and another 7,518 satellites will occupy an area about 320 kilometers (200 miles) above the earth.
Named Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, the two satellites launched Thursday by SpaceX on one of its Falcon 9 rockets are prototypes. The launch in California occurred at 1417 GMT, or shortly before dawn local time.
“If successful, Starlink constellation will serve least served,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said on Twitter after the launch.
The primary payload of the rocket was not actually the two prototypes but another satellite called Paz. With a plan for it to orbit over the planet’s polar regions, the observation satellite will be used by Spanish companies and the Spanish government.
Soon after the launch, Musk confirmed that Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b have begun communicating with stations below on earth.
SpaceX also attempted to catch a $6 million fairing, or nosecone, from the Falcon 9 rocket as it fell to the surface. Using a massive net welded to a large ship, Musk said the company missed the nosecone by only a short distance.
"Missed by a few hundred meters, but fairing landed intact in water," Musk tweeted. "Should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent."
A large part of SpaceX’s ethos is to reuse rockets and components of spacecraft in order to conserve resources.