SpaceX is targeting Monday, January 6 at 9:19 p.m. EST, or 2:19 UTC on January 7, for its third launch of Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
SpaceX began 2020 with the first of many Starlink launches planned for 2020. Provided all goes well, around 10 minutes after launch it'll return to Earth and land on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, stationed in the Atlantic ocean.
The satellite deployment, which was filmed live by a camera onboard the rocket, brings the total number of satellites that are part of the United States company's Starlink network to just under 180. The latest addition to the SpaceX mega-constellation is part of Elon Musk's plans to provide broadband internet around the world.
When it comes to satellite broadband from low Earth orbit, or LEO, SpaceX isn't likely to be the only game in town.
SpaceX has completed a static fire test of a Falcon 9 set to carry 60 Starlink satellites to orbit tomorrow. Even so, astronomers have voiced concerns about the rise of light and radio pollution in the night sky, spoiling their sensitive observations. Three to five more launches will have to take place to get the Starlink system on line based on a timetable discussed in 2019.
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The launch is scheduled for 9:19 p.m. ET 6 January and was delayed from Friday because of weather conditions.
Jeff Hall, director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, said the Starlinks have been just an occasional problem so far but noted the risk to stargazing will grow as the constellation expands and other companies launch their own fleets. A special coating on the bottom of Starlink satellites could reduce the glare, but how it will affect the performance is now unknown. The physics behind that deployment will allow the satellites to spread out in a 180-mile-high (290-kilometer-high) orbit.
Others include Jeff Bezos' Amazon and OneWeb.
Such traditional geostationary satellites are too distant to provide the kind of affordable internet access SpaceX aims to establish.
Starlink will provide high-speed, relatively low-latency broadband internet connectivity to customers on the ground, starting with those in the US and Canada, with service potentially becoming available as early as later this year.