SpaceX successfully launched its PAZ mission with two secondary Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.
MELBOURNE, Fla. — SpaceX's communications ambitions officially took flight Thursday when a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a test set of its Internet-beaming satellites vaulted off a California launch pad and into the dark morning sky.
The two mini-fridge-sized prototype spacecraft, named Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b in federal filings, weren't the primary payloads for the 6:17 a.m. Pacific Time liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base — that honor belonged to PAZ, an Earth observation satellite, for Spain-based Hisdesat.
PAZ saw successful deployment from the rocket's second stage 11 minutes after liftoff and the two Microsats began communicating with Earth stations shortly after, said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. He also said both were nicknamed "Tintin A & B."
If successful, the two prototype satellites will help pave the way for SpaceX's plans to launch nearly 12,000 satellites to low Earth orbit as soon as 2024. The consensus among analysts is that Musk is looking to create a new source of revenue for long-term Mars ambitions that could one day dwarf income from launches — an inherently risky venture with tight margins.