US-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the world's first all-electric communications satellites into orbit.
Blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in California on March 1, the rocket carried two satellites, built by Boeing, for French satellite provider Eutelsat and Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS).
The satellites will rely entirely on energy-efficient electric ion engines to maintain their orbit for up to two decades.
The satellites are outfitted with all-electric engines rather than conventional rocket thrusters to reach and maintain orbit, Forbes reported.
This reduces the weight of the satellites to the point where both could be launched at once.
The downside is that it will take the satellites months to reach geostationary orbit.
SpaceX is scheduled to launch at least two more Falcon 9 rockets this year.
The next launch is scheduled for March 21 when a Falcon 9 will deliver a communications satellite into orbit for Thales Alenia Space and the government of Turkmenistan.