In what will be SpaceX’s third flight of 2022, the company is set to loft 49 Starlink satellites into space on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff is scheduled for 7:26 p.m. EST (0026 Jan. 18 GMT).
You’ll be able to watch the launch here and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning about 15 minutes before launch. You can also watch it directly from SpaceX’s website and on YouTube.
Tonight’s launch will mark SpaceX’s second Starlink mission of 2022 following the Jan. 6 launch of 49 other satellites from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. A second SpaceX mission, called Transporter-3, launched 105 small satellites into orbit on Jan. 13 from a nearby pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, but did not carry any Starlink satellites.
The upcoming launch will be the 36th dedicated Starlink mission for SpaceX, which has launched nearly 2,000 of the broadband internet satellites since 2019. Since that first flight, SpaceX has been steadily growing its Starlink megaconstellation to provide fast, reliable internet service anywhere on Earth, especially in remote and underserved regions. The initial constellation is expected to number about 4,400 satellites.
In 2021, SpaceX redesigned its Starlink satellites to include laser communications so they could better communicate with each other without using ground relays. The Starlink satellites equipped with those laser systems will soon activate them, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote in a Twitter update Saturday (Jan. 15).
Musk also added that 1,469 of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites are currently active, with 272 of them moving into operational orbits between 335 and 348 miles (540 and 560 kilometers) above Earth.
The Falcon 9 rocket launching tonight’s Starlink mission has flown nine times before. It has launched six different Starlink missions, as well as the GPS III-3 satellite for the U.S. military, the Turksat 5A satellite for Turkey and the Transporter 2 rideshare mission, which launched 85 small satellites and three Starlink satellites.
The two payload fairings that make up the Falcon 9’s nosecone have also flown before on Starlink missions. After launch, the Falcon 9’s first stage will return to Earth to land on SpaceX’s drone ship A Shortfall of Gravitas in the Atlantic Ocean so that it can be refurbished for a future flight. SpaceX regularly reuses Falcon 9 boosters and fairings as part of its reusability program to reduce the cost of its missions.
Current weather forecasts from the U.S. Space Force predict a 70% chance of good weather at launch time for SpaceX’s Starlink flight tonight. High winds at liftoff are the primary concerns.
If SpaceX is unable to launch the Starlink mission Monday, it could try again on Tuesday at 7:04 p.m. EST (0004 GMT). The weather conditions for that day improve to over 90% for good weather, according the Space Force statement.