Following a delay to its original launch schedule, SpaceX is once again preparing to launch NASA’s Lunar Flashlight satellite, as well as HAKUTO-R Mission 1 in what is the first privately led Japanese mission to attempt a lunar landing.
All being well, the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the payloads will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center in the early hours of Sunday, December 11. The launch will be streamed online as it happens, so check below for the precise details on how to watch.
The briefcase-sized Lunar Flashlight satellite will use lasers to search for water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the moon’s South Pole, exploring places that haven’t seen sunlight in billions of years.
During the three-month mission, the Lunar Flashlight will use a reflectometer with four lasers that emit near-infrared light in wavelengths easily absorbed by surface water ice, NASA said, adding, “Should the lasers hit bare rock or regolith (broken rock and dust), the light will reflect back to the spacecraft. But if the target absorbs the light, that would indicate the presence of water ice. The greater the absorption, the more ice there may be.”
It’s hoped that lunar water could one day be used for astronauts on long-stay moon missions and even help to create rocket fuel for missions launching from the moon to planets such as Mars. Such a breakthrough would make space flights much more efficient, as launching from the moon, which has much less gravitational pull than Earth, would eliminate the need for enormous rockets and large amounts of fuel.
Sunday’s launch will also carry Japan’s HAKUTO-R lander to space for a lunar landing to deploy a number of government and private payloads.
How to watch
SpaceX is aiming to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 2:38 a.m. ET on Sunday, December 11, which for those on the West Coast is 11:38 p.m. PT on Saturday.
You can watch the launch and early stages of the mission via the video player that will be embedded at the top of this page closer to launch time. Alternatively, head to SpaceX’s website, which will carry the same feed. The broadcast will begin about 15 minutes prior to the launch.
For the latest updates on the mission status, check SpaceX’s Twitter account.
What to expect
SpaceX will show its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket blasting off from the Kennedy Space Center, lighting up the Florida sky as it goes. Cameras on the ground and on the rocket itself will track the early stages of the flight. First-stage separation high above Earth will be livestreamed, as will the booster’s touchdown at Landing Zone 1 a short distance from the launch site. Also expect detailed commentary on the purpose of the mission, as well as on the flight itself as the rocket heads to space.
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