Watch SpaceX launch 51 Starlink satellites to orbit on March 3 after weather delays (Image Credit: Space.com)
SpaceX plans to launch another big batch of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit on Friday (March 3) after a series of weather delays, and you can watch the action live.
A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 51 Starlink spacecraft is scheduled to lift off from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base today (March 2) at 1:38 p.m. EST (1838 GMT; 10:38 a.m. local California time). You can watch the Starlink launch live here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company (opens in new tab). Coverage is expected to start about five minutes before liftoff.
That timeline has been delayed for days, as SpaceX had been targeting Tuesday (opens in new tab)(Feb. 28) for the liftoff. The company apparently moved the launch to Thursday (opens in new tab) to deconflict with prep work for the scheduled early-Thursday liftoff of the Crew-6 astronaut mission from Florida. Then on Thursday, the company announced another weather delay (opens in new tab), shifting the launch to Friday.
“Due to unfavorable recovery weather conditions today, team is resetting Falcon 9’s launch of Starlink from California for Friday, March 3 at 10:38 a.m. PT,” SpaceX wrote in a Twitter update (opens in new tab).
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9’s first stage will return to Earth about 8 minutes and 45 seconds after launch on Friday, touching down on the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
It will be the 12th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab). Among the booster’s 11 other missions were Crew-1 and Crew-2, SpaceX’s first operational astronaut flights to the International Space Station for NASA.
The Falcon 9’s upper stage, meanwhile, will continue soaring toward low Earth orbit, ultimately deploying the Starlink satellites there about 15.5 minutes after liftoff.
Friday’s planned mission comes a few days after another Starlink launch: A Falcon 9 lofted 21 Starlink “V2 mini” satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Monday evening (Feb. 27).
The V2 mini is a next-generation variant that’s more capable than older Starlink spacecraft, such as the 51 satellites going up on Thursday. And V2 minis are bigger than their predecessors as well; they’re small only in relation to the standard V2s, future satellites that are designed to launch aboard SpaceX’s giant Starship Mars rocket, which is still in development.
SpaceX has already launched more than 4,000 Starlink satellites (opens in new tab) to orbit, but the megaconstellation will continue to grow far into the future. Elon Musk‘s company has permission to loft 12,000 of the spacecraft and has applied for approval to deploy an additional 30,000 as well.
The two Starlink missions are part of a busy week for SpaceX. The company also successfully launched four Crew-6 astronauts to the International Space Station from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:34 a.m. EST (0534 GMT) on Thursday.
Crew-6 was originally supposed to fly early Monday, but that attempt was scrubbed late in the countdown due to a ground-system issue. Projected bad weather pushed the next attempt to Thursday.
Thursday’s Starlink launch from Vandenberg was supposed to fly on Monday as well, but SpaceX pushed it back due to weather concerns. If all had gone according to the original plan, the company would have launched three orbital missions on a single day.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:25 p.m. EST on Feb. 28 with the new launch date of March 1 for the Starlink mission, then again at 3:15 p.m. EST on March 1 with the new target date of March 2, then again at 12:30 p.m. EST on March 2 with the new launch time of 1:38 p.m. EST on Friday, March 3.
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 Facebook (opens in new tab).