Watch SpaceX launch 40 OneWeb internet satellites on Thursday (Image Credit: Space.com)
SpaceX will launch 40 broadband satellites to orbit for the London-based company OneWeb on Thursday (March 9), and you can watch the action live.
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9’s first stage will come back to Earth 7 minutes and 50 seconds after launch for a pinpoint touchdown at Cape Canaveral.
It will be the 13th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab). Among those previous flights are SpaceX’s two private astronaut missions, Inspiration4 and Ax-1, which launched in September 2021 and April 2022, respectively.
The rocket’s upper stage, meanwhile, will continue making its way to low Earth orbit (LEO). The OneWeb satellites will be deployed in small batches over the course of 37 minutes, beginning about 59 minutes after liftoff.
OneWeb is building a constellation of more than 600 satellites in LEO, which will provide internet service to customers around the world.
Thursday’s mission, known as OneWeb 17, will bring the number of satellites in this network to 582, company representatives said in a mission description (opens in new tab). Just one more launch, of another 40 satellites, will finish the constellation’s construction, they added.
Most of OneWeb’s satellites have launched atop Russian-built Soyuz rockets operated by the French company Arianespace. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year ended that arrangement, and OneWeb had to find other rides to orbit.
The company did so in short order, inking deals with SpaceX and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the Indian Space Research Organisation’s commercial branch. To date, OneWeb has flown twice with SpaceX (on Falcon 9 rockets) and once with NSIL (on an Indian GSLV Mark III vehicle).
The SpaceX launch contract is interesting, given that Elon Musk’s company is building its own broadband megaconstellation in LEO. SpaceX’s network, called Starlink, consists of more than 3,700 operational spacecraft and continues to grow.
Thursday is shaping up to be an eventful day for SpaceX. At 5:05 p.m. EST (2205 GMT) on Thursday, the company’s Crew-5 astronaut mission for NASA is scheduled to depart the International Space Station, bringing four spaceflyers back to Earth after five months in orbit.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).