SpaceX will launch an Italian Earth-observation satellite to orbit Thursday (Jan. 27), and you can watch it live.
A two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with the Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation FM2 (CSG-2) satellite is scheduled to lift off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Thursday at 6:11 p.m. EST (2311 GMT). The rocket’s first stage is expected to come back for a vertical touchdown at Cape Canaveral not long after launch. SpaceX announced on Twitter that it had test-fired the Falcon 9 first-stage booster for the flight on Sunday (Jan. 23) ahead of today’s planned launch.
You can watch all the action live here at Space.com when the time comes, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company. SpaceX webcasts generally start 15 to 20 minutes before liftoff.
The Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation program is funded by the Italian Space Agency, the Italian Ministry of Defense and the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Scientific Research. The system consists of two satellites, which are designed to observe Earth using synthetic aperture radar (SAR).
CSG is an enhanced follow-on to the original Cosmo-SkyMed system.
“COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation[‘s] purpose is to monitor the Earth for the sake of emergency prevention, strategy, scientific and commercial purposes, providing data on a global scale to support a variety of applications among which risk management, cartography, forest and environment protection, natural resources exploration, land management, defense and security, maritime surveillance, food and agriculture management,” European Space Agency officials wrote in a description of the program.
The first CSG satellite, CSG-1, launched atop an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from Kourou, French Guiana in December 2019 and is currently operating in a sun-synchronous polar orbit, 385 miles (620 kilometers) above Earth. CSG-2 is headed for the same orbit.
Thursday’s launch is part of a very busy nine-day stretch for SpaceX. Its robotic Dragon cargo spacecraft returned from the International Space Station on Monday (Jan. 24), and the company is planning to launch a batch of its Starlink internet satellites on Saturday (Jan. 29) as well as the NROL-87 mission for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office on Feb. 2.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.