SpaceX plans to launch 53 more Starlink internet satellites and land the returning rocket on a ship at sea early Wednesday morning (May 18), and you can watch all the action live.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with 53 Starlink spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday at 6:20 a.m. EDT (1020 GMT). The rocket’s first stage will land on the SpaceX droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas in the Atlantic Ocean about nine minutes after liftoff, if all goes according to plan.
You can watch it all unfold here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company. Coverage is expected to begin about 10 minutes before liftoff. The livestream will end shortly after booster landing, if previous Starlink webcasts are any guide. So the live coverage likely won’t include deployment of the Starlink satellites, which is expected to occur about an hour after launch.
Starlink is SpaceX’s broadband constellation, which currently consists of more than 2,300 satellites. That number has been growing rapidly lately; SpaceX has launched 20 missions already in 2022, and 13 of them have been dedicated Starlink flights.
But the Starlink population could get truly huge in the not-too-distant future; the next-generation version of the constellation may eventually consist of up to 30,000 satellites.
Wednesday’s mission will be the fifth for this particular Falcon 9 first stage. Such reuse is a priority for SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk, who views rapid and repeated reflight as the key breakthrough needed to make ambitious exploration feats such as Mars settlement economically feasible.
SpaceX has landed Falcon 9 first stages 113 times during orbital missions to date and has reflown boosters on 92 occasions, according to the company’s website.
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.