SpaceX will launch more than four dozen satellites and land the returning rocket on Monday (Feb. 21), and you can watch the action live.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with 49 of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Sunday at 9:44 a.m. EST (1444 GMT). You can watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company. SpaceX’s webcast will begin about 15 minutes before launch.
The launch plan includes a rocket landing: About nine minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage will come back down to Earth for a vertical touchdown on SpaceX’s droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.
SpaceX initially planned to launch the mission on Sunday, but delayed it a day due to bad weather for that rocket recovery. “Due to recovery weather, now targeting Monday, February 21 at 9:44 a.m. EST for launch of Starlink,” SpaceX wrote on Twitter Saturday.
Monday’s will be the 11th launch and landing of this particular Falcon 9 first stage, according to EverydayAstronaut.com. That will tie SpaceX’s reuse record, which was set by a different Falcon 9 core during a Starlink launch in December.
SpaceX has already launched three big Starlink batches this year — two in January and one on Feb. 3. The most recent mission ran into serious trouble, however, thanks to a solar eruption, which triggered a geomagnetic storm here on Earth.
That storm increased atmospheric density, boosting drag on the newly launched Starlink satellites. As a result, up to 40 of the 49 spacecraft came crashing back to Earth, SpaceX representatives said.
SpaceX has already launched about 2,100 Starlink satellites to orbit, but the company is far from done. SpaceX has approval to launch 12,000 Starlink craft and has applied for permission from an international regulator for up to 30,000 more.
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.