KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – A week after it sent four astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time, SpaceX was shooting for a bicoastal doubleheader: Launching a NASA Earth observation satellite Saturday morning from California and another batch of Starlink satellites from Florida that night, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.
SpaceX launched NASA’s Sentinel 6-Michael Freilich oceanography satellite from Vandenberg Air Force base at just before 12:30 a.m. EST. The satellite is named in honor of the late director of NASA’s Earth science division. It’s the first West Coast launch in a year a half and Californians were treated to a booster return on land.
SpaceX was expected to have another launch Saturday night on the East coast, but the launch was delayed.
According to Spaceflight Now, SpaceX has delayed the launch until 9:56 p.m. Sunday night.
SpaceX is set to send its 16th batch of Starlink satellites to low earth orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast.
This latest batch of 60 satellites brings the total number launched by SpaceX to nearly a thousand. Ultimately the satellite constellation will provide high-speed broadband internet to rural areas.
Starlink satellites are now in beta testing in select areas in the United States. Early beta testers paid a one-time equipment fee of $499 and a monthly service cost of $99 per month and were warned to expect periodic outages and speeds between 50 to 150 Mbps. In a nod to its experimental nature, SpaceX is referring to the trial run as “Starlink’s Better Than Nothing Beta” program.
The Vandenberg launch had been delayed due to the same engine issue that plagued the GPS 3 mission in October and the commercial crew Crew-1 mission. It was discovered that flaking paint had clogged vent holes on the engines causing a rise in pressure in the gas generators. The engines were swapped out on all three rockets and GPS 3 and Crew-1 took off in November without incident. The Sentinel-6 mission will be the last of the three to launch and prove the replacement engines are viable.
- Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9
- Mission: Starlink
- Launch time: 10:17 p.m.
- Launch Complex: 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
- Landing: drone ship
- Weather: 70% “go”