SpaceX to launch 1st batch of ‘direct to cell’ Starlink satellites early Dec. 16 (Image Credit: Space.com)
SpaceX plans to launch another batch of its Starlink internet satellites early Saturday morning (Dec. 16), and you can watch the action live.
A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 21 Starlink craft is scheduled to launch from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on Saturday during a roughly 3.5-hour window that opens at 12:19 a.m. EST (0519 GMT; 9:19 p.m. on Dec. 15 local California time). And some of those satellites are trailblazers.
“This launch will include the first six Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capabilities that will enable mobile network operators around the world to provide seamless global access to texting, calling, and browsing wherever you may be on land, lakes, or coastal waters,” SpaceX wrote in a mission description.
You can watch the liftoff live via SpaceX‘s account on X (formerly known as Twitter), beginning about 15 minutes before the window opens.
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9’s first stage will come back to Earth for a vertical landing about 8.5 minutes after launch on Saturday. It will touch down on the droneship “Of Course I Still Love You,” which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
It will be the first launch and landing for this particular booster, according to the SpaceX mission description.
The 21 Starlink satellites, meanwhile, are scheduled to deploy from the Falcon 9’s upper stage into low Earth orbit about 62.5 minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX has already launched more than 90 orbital missions in 2023, plus two test flights of its giant, next-generation Starship Mars rocket.
Most of the launch action has been devoted to building out Starlink, SpaceX’s broadband megaconstellation. The network currently consists of more than 5,100 active satellites and, as Friday’s planned liftoff shows, it’s growing all the time.