KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Florida’s Space Coast is preparing for a busy summer with a NASA Mars rover launch coming up and SpaceX launching satellites on a near-weekly basis.
The next launch to look out for is, yet again, with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX has successfully launched more than 400 satellites, known as the Starlink constellation, as part of CEO Elon Musk’s plan to create a space-based internet using a network of, eventually, thousands of satellites.
According to the 45th Weather Squadron forecast, SpaceX is targeting Thursday for the next Starlink launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
SpaceX is targeting 4:39 p.m. for liftoff from launch complex 39A at KSC.
Weather officers are predicting a 40% chance of favorable launch weather Thursday. Cloud cover and lightning could cause the launch to delay. SpaceX also has a backup window on Friday, when the chances improve to 60%.
Some public roads will be closed for Thursday’s launch window, according to Kennedy Space Center.
The A. Max Brewer Memorial Parkway, east of the bridge on County Road 402 to Playalinda Beach will not be open and State Road 3 North at US Highway 1 in Volusia County, south to Playalinda Beach will not be open.
This launch will bring the Starlink constellation total to 600.
When the satellites first launch they are closer to Earth before moving deeper into space. They fly in an elliptical orbit around Earth and when sunlight reflects off the solar panels on the spacecraft people down on Earth can see the bright lights floating two-by-two in a string in the night sky.
The sight can be awe-inspiring and confusing to some. WKMG has received calls from people asking about the bright lights in the sky when the satellites fly over Central Florida.
The lights are also concerning to the astronomy community and those who study the stars by radio telescopes.
SpaceX heard the complaints from astronomy leaders and began testing changes to block the reflected light from the spacecraft, making the satellites less visible at night.
SpaceX lead manufacturing engineer Jessica Anderson explained how the company is addressing those concerns during a recent Starlink launch.
“As you may have seen during our last mission we launched the first Starlink satellite with a deployable visor to block sunlight from hitting the brightest spots of the spacecraft. This demo satellite, also known as Visor-Sat, is just one of the many actions SpaceX has taken in collaboration with astronomical groups to mitigate the effects of satellite reflectivity,” Anderson said. “So we plan to equip all future Starlink satellites with deployable visors starting with the next mission.”
Today's #AtlasV test was successfully completed at 1:55pmEDT (1755 UTC). Systems will be safed, cryogenic fuels drained and the rocket allowed to warm up before rollback to the Vertical Integration Facility for Mars 2020 attachment. https://t.co/iq4oKMrMuA pic.twitter.com/38wFSaUXFV— ULA (@ulalaunch) June 22, 2020
Meanwhile down the road at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, United Launch Alliance is preparing to launch NASA’s next Mars rover. That launch is slated for July 20.
ULA and NASA conducted a dress rehearsal on Monday for the Atlas V launch that will send NASA’s new robot named Perseverance to Mars.
The rover follows in the wheel-tracks of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover and will search for signs of past life but in a different spot on the planet.
Perseverance will land near and explore the geology of the Jezero Crater where it will also collect samples to send back to Earth.