SpaceX will launch 47 satellites and land the returning rocket on Thursday morning (March 3), and you can watch the action live.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying 47 Starlink internet satellites is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday at 9:35 a.m. EST (1435 GMT). About nine minutes later, the Falcon 9’s upper stage will come back to Earth for a vertical landing on the SpaceX droneship Just Read the Instructions, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.
You can watch all this action live here at Space.com courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company. Coverage will start about 15 minutes before liftoff.
Thursday’s launch will be the 11th for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, which will tie a SpaceX rocket reuse record. The booster previously launched the GPS III SV03 mission in June 2020, Turksat 5A in January 2021, Transporter 2 in June 2021 and seven other Starlink batches, SpaceX representatives said.
Such extensive reflight is a priority for SpaceX and its founder and CEO, Elon Musk, who has often said that full and rapid reuse of space hardware is the key breakthrough needed to help humanity colonize Mars and achieve other ambitious exploration goals.
Thursday’s launch will be the sixth Starlink mission of the year already for SpaceX. All of the launches were successful, but the third mission, which lifted off on Feb. 3, ended up being waylaid by a solar storm. That sun outburst spawned a geomagnetic storm here on Earth, which increased the density of our atmosphere enough to bring down up to 40 of the 49 Starlink satellites, which had not yet climbed to their operational altitude, SpaceX representatives said.
There will be many more Starlink launches in the weeks and months to come. The company has already delivered more than 2,000 Starlink spacecraft to low Earth orbit, but it has permission to launch 12,000 satellites and has applied to an international regulator for approval to loft 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.