Government leaders from Turkmenistan are making their way to Central Florida. They'll witness the launch of the nation's first communications satellite Monday night from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
But it comes as the nation faces harsh criticism back home for blocking independent sources of news and information.
SpaceX is preparing its Falcon 9 rocket to take the satellite more than 22,000 miles above Earth. Thales Alenia Space, a French-Italian manufacturer, built the satellite for Turkmenistan.
Once in orbit, the satellite will provide enhanced, secure telecommunications for the country.
Turkmenistan is located in Central Asia, bordered by Iran, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
And as Turkmenistan launches its first satellite, designed to improve television and radio broadcasts, it’s also clamping down on what kind of communications its citizens can receive.
Just this past week, overseas media outlets reported that the Turkmen government banned all citizens from using satellite dishes.
“Satellite television is the last lifeline to the outside world for people in Turkmenistan. The government should stop its strong-arm tactics to restrict freedom of expression and let people choose their own news and entertainment sources,” said Rachel Denber with the independent watch dog organization, Human Rights Watch.
For its part, SpaceX says it doesn't have any direct contact with the government, rather they’ve been dealing with the satellite maker.
Monday’s launch window opens up at 6:14 p.m.