SpaceX's most recent launch of Starlink internet satellites into orbit broke the private space company's own record for most rocket launches in a calendar year.
The Falcon 9, which took off from the space station at Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday, was Elon Musk's 27th successful launch in 2021.
SpaceX's Starlink project aims to create a vast network of satellites the size of a table around the Earth to transmit high-speed Internet to earth.
Currently, there are more than 1,750 active Starlink satellites in orbit, although SpaceX has filed documents to create a constellation of 42,000 units.
Up to five more SpaceX launches are scheduled by the end of the year, with the next scheduled for December 9.
Musk said the Starlink network will provide "near-global coverage of the inhabited world," but will primarily serve rural and isolated regions that are poorly served by traditional terrestrial infrastructure.
The venture has already faced criticism from the Satellites Constellation (SatCon1) astronomer coalition, which argued that the largest satellite constellation in history could prove to be "hugely influential" in scientific advancement. The Starlink satellites, which are usually launched in batches of 50 to 60, have previously triggered UFO reports due to their unusual string-like structure, however SpaceX has taken steps to reduce their visibility to ground observers.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, the SpaceX boss is currently the richest person on the planet, with an estimated fortune of $ 311 billion (£ 234 billion). His closest rival, fellow space enthusiast Jeff Bezos, has a fortune of $ 201 billion.
Both Musk and Bezos are currently rivals in the so-called billionaire space race, and Bezos's Blue Origin is currently focusing on sending private citizens into space aboard its New Sheperd rocket.
SpaceX struck a multi-billion dollar deal with NASA earlier this year, overtaking Blue Origin, but Musk warned this week that the private space company is at risk of bankruptcy if its next-generation Starship rocket fails to perform regular launches in 2022.>
If a severe global recession dries up capital availability while SpaceX is losing billions on Starlink and Starship, bankruptcy, while unlikely, is possible, ”he wrote on Tuesday.
To date, there has been only one successful Starship launch and landing from high altitude, although there are already plans to complete the first orbital flight early next year.
The long-term goal is to mass-produce spacecraft and use them to transport people and cargo across the solar system, ultimately creating a permanent human colony on Mars.