CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. – SpaceX plans to launch another round of internet-beaming satellites from Cape Canaveral --possibly next week-- in its race to create a space-based internet and help fund further space exploration.
A Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 40 no earlier than Jan. 27 carrying 60 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit. This launch will bring the company’s total of satellites in orbit to 240, more than any other company operating spacecraft in low-Earth orbit.
The launch was scheduled for Friday but SpaceX officials said weather for the rocket booster-landing was unfavorable and the team is now targeting Jan. 27 if the Eastern range is available for launch.
The private company lands its first-stage boosters on a droneship called Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX is also working on recovering the rocket’s fairings, or nose cone, pieces after launch by catching them in a giant net. Re-flying rocket hardware allows SpaceX to keep launch costs lower than its competitors by millions of dollars.
The Starlink constellation is part of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to become a global internet provider, beaming internet to remote destinations around the globe and helping fund other SpaceX projects.
A Falcon 9 launched another round of satellites on Jan. 6 and the company plans to send up Starlink spacecraft every few weeks, eventually, operating thousands of satellites to create a space-based global internet.
The private space company has been working to address concerns from astronomers about the reflection created by hundreds of satellites passing in the night sky.
Ahead of the most recent Starlink launch, SpaceX provided astronomy groups with tracking data to help them coordinate their science observations.
There are two primary concerns astronomers have about the growing number of satellites. The first is the brightness produced by satellites, which is a problem for astronomers doing research that requires sweeps of the sky using ground-based telescopes searching for objects, including asteroids that could impact Earth.
The second concern is for radio astronomy, which is a science that studies space objects through radio waves. The satellites can disrupt those radio signals when they fly over.
Friday’s launch will mark the third for SpaceX this year, although one of those wasn’t designed to reach space.
On Sunday, a Falcon 9 rocket launched a Crew Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center and was intentionally destroyed over the Atlantic Ocean after the spacecraft’s emergency abort system sent the spacecraft flying away from the rocket. The in-flight abort test was designed to prove the Crew Dragon’s ability to keep astronauts safe in the event of a Falcon 9 rocket launch failure.
The high-profile test was the final step SpaceX needed to certify its spacecraft to fly NASA astronauts, possibly later this year.
Launch details to know
Rocket: Falcon 9
Payload: 60 Starlink satellites
Launch window: Jan. 27 at 9:49 a.m.
Landing: Yes, droneship in the Atlantic Ocean
Launch forecast: TBD