SpaceX prepares for next Starlink launch, marking Falcon 9’s fifth mission
SpaceX's next batch of Starlink internet satellites will be launched early Monday morning. Here's what you need to know.
This will mark the eighth launch of Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit, and the fifth launch with the SpaceX Falcon 9. The Block 5 first-stage booster also launched the Telstar 18 Vantage and Iridium-8 missions.
SpaceX initially confirmed that the next batch of 60 Starlink satellites will be launched on Sunday 17 May 2020 at 3:53 EDT; or 9:53 SAST, but the launch has since been postponed.
There are plenty more of these missions ahead; SpaceX will eventually have 12 000 satellites in orbit, with the approval of an additional 30 000 satellites still pending.
SpaceX’s eighth Starlink launch
SpaceX confirmed that the Falcon 9’s static fire test was successfully completed on 13 May; the team targetted Sunday 17 May for the Starlink launch.
The launch is set to take place from Launch Complex 40 in Florida. However, weather forecasters predicted that it could be delayed due to high winds and thick clouds along Florida’s coast on Sunday.
Despite there being an 80% chance that conditions clear up, SpaceX confirmed on Saturday 16 May that the launch was, in fact, postponed to Monday:
“Due to a conflict on the Range, now targeting Monday, May 18 at 3:32 a.m. EDT for launch of Starlink”
Watch: Starlink’s previous mission
Stay tuned, we will add the live stream here as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, watch a replay of the previous Starlink mission.
That means you need to set your alarm from 9:32 SAST on Monday morning if you want to watch it live. The upcoming Starlink launch will bring the total number of satellites in low-Earth orbit to 480.
Falcon 9’s previous launches
Other than two previous Starlink launches, the Falcon 9 rocket also launched the eighth and final set of satellites in a series of 75 satellites forming part of Iridium’s next-gen global satellite constellation.
In 2018, the Falcon 9 Block 5 booster launched the Telstar 18V communication satellite from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, United States. Monday’s launch will mark its fifth mission.
What is Starlink?
For those not in the know, the Starlink initiative will eventually see 4 409 satellites launched into orbit; followed by an additional 7 518 that will do their work at a slightly lower altitude.
The satellite system will provide global internet coverage, and many of the satellites are operational already. Musk once tweeted while being connected to the network.
SpaceX confirmed in a press release earlier this year that the company will be taken steps to “responsibly scale Starlink’s total network capacity and data density” to meet growth of users’ anticipated needs.