SpaceX is building its internet network, called Starlink. The rocket company aims to deploy a mega constellation of 12,000 internet-beaming Starlink satellites which will provide connection worldwide. Currently, there are 480 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. “SpaceX is targeting Saturday, June 13 at 5:21 a.m. EDT, 9:21 UTC, for launch of its ninth Starlink mission, which will include 58 Starlink satellites and three of Planet’s SkySats,” SpaceX announced.
Planet’s trio of SkySats are Earth-imaging satellites that will be hitching a ride on tomorrow’s Starlink mission. They will join 18 SkySats that are already in orbit. It will be the first mission under SpaceX’s SmallSat Rideshare Program launch service. The Rideshare program gives companies a much affordable option to launch small payloads into orbit by sharing spacecraft with a main payload -which in this case it is SpaceX’s 58 Starlink satellites. Booking an entire rocket flight can cost around $60 million -but under SpaceX's SmallSat Rideshare Program launching will cost around $1 million.
A previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket will lift off all the satellites into orbit at around 5:21 a.m. Eastern Time (EDT), from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. You can watch the launch live in the video below.
The United States Space Force 45th Wing Weather Squadron predicts 70% favorable weather conditions for early Saturday morning at Florida’s coast. “A weak frontal boundary across North Florida will continue drifting South through the day, which along with a boost in moisture from the tropics will bring increasing clouds and a few onshore moving Atlantic showers overnight," the 45th Weather Squadron stated, “The primary weather concern for the launch window will be cumulus clouds associated with the onshore moving showers.” If the launch is delayed, SpaceX has a backup opportunity on Sunday at 4:59 a.m. EDT. Though, weather conditions become less favorable at 60%.
The rocket that will perform the mission has flown twice – “Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported Dragon’s 19th and 20th resupply missions to the International Space Station. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean,” the company announced. Engineers will attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first-stage booster a third time about 9 minutes after liftoff it is expected to conduct a controlled vertical landing on Of Course I Still Love You. SpaceX is the only aerospace company in the world that is capable of recovering orbital-class rockets. Their goal is to eventually develop a spacecraft that can be as reusable as airplanes with little refurbishment in between flights.
SpaceX also said it will reuse the rocket’s fairing – which is the top nose cone section which holds the payload – “One half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously flew on the JCSAT-18/Kacific1 mission, and the other half previously flew on SpaceX’s third Starlink mission.” Reusing fairings saves the company around $6 million.
The company also explained that the trio of Planet’s SkySats will deploy first about 12 minutes after liftoff. SkySats are about the size of a household washing machine, so, they will each deploy “sequentially.” At around 26 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX’s batch of 58 Starlink satellites will all deploy and slowly separate into designated orbit in the days ahead.
WATCH SPACEX'S FIRST RIDESHARE MISSION LIVE!
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.