SpaceX plans to launch a prototype satellite later this year in hopes of deploying the first in its massive network of internet-providing satellites in 2019.
Patricia Cooper, the satellite government affairs vice president for the private spaceflight company, provided additional details of the project in testimony before a U.S. Senate panel last week.
Cooper, the Los Angeles Times reports, told lawmakers that SpaceX expects to launch two prototypes in total — one this year and the second in 2018 — before launching the first operational satellites the following year.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first announced his plan to provide high-speed internet from space in early 2015. The company envisions 4,425 solar-powered satellites — about the size of a car — delivering internet service to pizza-box-sized receivers on Earth.
Cooper said that the company's Falcon 9 rockets will deliver satellites to orbit in phases through 2024. SpaceX will launch 800 satellites in an initial stage, then send the remainder — including dormant satellites in the event of equipment failures — into orbit.
The company previously said the entire network should be in place by 2030 at a cost of about $10 billion. Musk views the network as a potential revenue stream to help fund SpaceX's ambitions to travel to Mars and elsewhere in deeper space.