Update: SpaceX is trying again! After its original attempts to launch 60 Starlink satellites were scrapped due to weather issues, the company is giving it another go today. A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying the initial 60 satellites for SpaceX’s ambitious Starlink internet constellation will lift off at 10.30pm Eastern / 7.30pm Pacific — provided all goes according to plan that is.
The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday, May 15, but called off with just minutes to spare after windy weather endangered the launch’s chances of success. A few days later, the backup launch was abandoned yet again. The decision came a couple of hours before the opening of the revised launch window on Thursday evening, May 16. In a tweet, the company said it was “standing down to update satellite software and triple-check everything again,” adding, “Always want to do everything we can on the ground to maximize mission success, next launch opportunity in about a week.”
Standing down to update satellite software and triple-check everything again. Always want to do everything we can on the ground to maximize mission success, next launch opportunity in about a week.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 17, 2019
Now, nearly a week later, SpaceX is ready to try again.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch — the sixth this year — is significant because it will mark the first major deployment for SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. Two previous Starlink satellites have been launched, but both of these were only for test purposes. The next launch will be significantly larger, with 60 Starlink satellites packed into the nose of the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry them. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said that this is the heaviest ever payload for SpaceX, weighing 18.5 tons.
“Approximately one hour and two minutes after liftoff, the Starlink satellites will begin deployment at an altitude of 440km,” SpaceX noted on its website. “They will then use onboard propulsion to reach an operational altitude of 550km.”
The eventual goal of the ambitious Starlink project is to launch thousands of satellites into low-Earth orbit in order to establish a broadband network for providing low-cost, high-speed global internet coverage. Getting the remaining satellites into orbit will take SpaceX another eight years — and a total cost of around $10 billion. To achieve “minor” internet coverage will reportedly require an additional six similar launches, each carrying 60 satellites each. Twelve more launches will result in “moderate” coverage. Musk has said that his goal is to launch at least 1,000 satellites per year. Launches such as today’s will deliver around “1 terabit of bandwidth to the Earth.”
As the last two days have shown, with these eagerly anticipated SpaceX launches, there is always a chance that things won’t go quite as planned. We’ll be sure to update this post as soon as we know the date of the next launch window. Whenever that may be, you can watch using the handy SpaceX livestream which is available to tune into here. It is due to go live roughly 15 minutes before the launch takes place.
Updated on May 23, 2019: Revised to include new launch attempt information.
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