Update for 11:30 p.m. ET: SpaceX successfully launched the massive BlueWalker 3 communications satellite and 34 Starlink satellites, as well as a Falcon 9 rocket for the 14th time, a record. Read our full story here.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will fly for a record 14th time on Saturday night (September 10), launching 34 of the company’s Starlink internet satellites and a massive direct-to-smartphone connectivity test spacecraft into orbit, and you can watch it Direct.
The two-step Falcon 9topped by Starlinks and AST SpaceMobile’s Blue Walker 3 test satellite, is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Saturday at 9:20 p.m. EDT (0120 GMT September 11). Watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly through the company (opens in a new tab).
The liftoff will be the 14th for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, setting a new record for rocket reuse. According to a Description of the SpaceX mission (opens in a new tab), the booster also helped launch SpaceX’s first-ever astronaut mission, the Demo-2 flight to the International Space Station (ISS), in May 2020; the ANASIS-II satellite for the South Korean army in July 2020; the CRS-21 robotic cargo mission to the ISS in December 2020; Transporter-1 and Transporter 3 carpool flights in January 2021 and January 2022, respectively; and eight Starlink missions.
Related: SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation launches in photos
The first stage of Falcon 9 will return to Earth for a new landing on Saturday evening. He will make an accurate touchdown at the top SpaceX‘s A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship in the Atlantic Ocean 8.5 minutes after liftoff, if all goes as planned.
The upper stage of the rocket, meanwhile, will continue to head into orbit. The Blue Walker 3 is scheduled to deploy just under 50 minutes after liftoff and the 34 Starlinks an hour and 14 minutes later. For all of this to happen, it will take five engine burns — more than on any other Falcon 9 mission, according to the SpaceX mission description.
“One of our most complex assignments,” company founder and CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter on Friday (opens in a new tab) (9 September).
Stellar Link is SpaceX’s broadband constellation, which already provides service to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The company has launched more than 3,200 Starlink satellites to date and plans to launch many more; it has clearance to put 12,000 Starlink craft into orbit and has requested clearance for up to 30,000 additional satellites.
Indeed, another batch of Starlinks will go up this weekend, if all goes as planned: a Falcon 9 carrying 54 Starlinks is set to launch late Sunday evening from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, which is next to KSC .
At the end of last month, the founder and CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk announced an agreement with T-Mobile to provide connectivity directly to smartphones using Starlink Version 2 satellites, a larger and more powerful variant that is expected to come online next year. Saturday night’s launch will feature a ship with similar ambitions in Blue Walker 3.
BlueWalker 3 is a test satellite that will be operated by Texas-based AST SpaceMobile, which plans to build its own space-based broadband cellular network.
“We are thrilled to see the industry enthusiasm around the satellite-to-phone connectivity model, which we have been building for more than five years,” said Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer at AST SpaceMobile, in a statement sent by email.
“Our upcoming launch of the BlueWalker 3 test satellite will be a major validation of this growing global market opportunity,” he added.
BlueWalker 3 will feature a phased array antenna that covers 693 square feet (64 square meters) — the largest commercial communications array ever deployed in low Earth orbit, AST SpaceMobile representatives said in an emailed statement. The satellite may be brighter than anything in our night sky except the moon, The new scientist reported (opens in a new tab).
SpaceX has launched 40 orbital missions in 2022 so far. Twenty-six of them were mainly devoted to the construction of the Starlink megaconstellation.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).
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