SpaceX will launch 50 satellites and land the returning booster today (Feb. 25), and you can watch the action live.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with 50 Starlink internet spacecraft is scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California today at 12:12 p.m. EST (1712 GMT; 9:12 a.m. local California time). You can watch live here at Space.com courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company. Coverage will start about 15 minutes before liftoff.
And there will be a lot to see. About nine minutes after launch, the Falcon 9’s first stage will come back down to Earth for a vertical touchdown on Of Course I Still Love You, a SpaceX droneship that will be stationed several hundred miles off the California coast.
It will be the fourth landing for this particular booster. The first stage also helped launch the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Earth-observation satellite for NASA and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites in November 2020, as well as 60 Starlink satellites in May 2021 and NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft in November 2021, SpaceX representatives said.
Such reuse is a priority for SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk. Musk aims to help humanity colonize Mars, and the billionaire entrepreneur believes that fully and rapidly reusable rockets are the key breakthrough needed to make that happen.
Today’s launch is the third Starlink mission of February for SpaceX, after a 49-satellite launch on Feb. 3 and a 46-satellite liftoff on Monday (Feb. 21). That most recent mission marked the 100th landing of a Falcon 9 first stage during an orbital flight.
The Feb. 3 Starlink mission was also notable, but for a very different reason. Shortly after liftoff, a solar eruption triggered a geomagnetic storm on Earth, which increased the density of our atmosphere enough to bring down most of the newly launched satellites via drag. SpaceX has said that it will launch Starlink spacecraft to slightly higher initial altitudes in the future to protect against such storms.
SpaceX has launched more than 2,000 Starlink satellites to date, and many more are slated to go up. The company has permission to loft 12,000 of the broadband spacecraft, and it has applied for approval to launch 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.