SpaceX plans to launch one of its Falcon 9 rockets for a record-setting 13th time today (June 17), and you can watch the action live.
The two-stage Falcon 9 is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida today at 12:08 p.m. EDT (1608 GMT), carrying 53 of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites to orbit. It is the first of three rockets in three days from three different pads for SpaceX this weekend.
If all goes according to plan, the 53 satellites will be deployed into low Earth orbit about 15.5 minutes after launch. But there will be action before then: About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage will come down to Earth for a vertical landing on the SpaceX droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
It will be the 13th launch and landing for this Falcon 9 first stage, setting a new SpaceX reuse record. The booster previously helped loft a GPS satellite, a Turkish communications satellite, a variety of spacecraft on the Transporter 2 “rideshare” mission and nine Starlink batches, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab).
Such extensive reflight is a big priority for SpaceX and its billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk. Musk has repeatedly said that rapid and complete reuse is the key breakthrough that will allow humanity to settle Mars and achieve a variety of other ambitious spaceflight feats.
Starlink is SpaceX’s constellation of internet satellites. The company has launched more than 2,600 Starlink craft to date (opens in new tab), and the number will continue to increase far into the future; the next-generation version of the network could eventually consist of up to 30,000 satellites (opens in new tab).
Today’s mission will kick off a planned rocket tripleheader for SpaceX, which also intends to launch a radar satellite for the German military on Saturday morning (June 18) and a commercial communications satellite early Sunday (June 19).
This intense 36-hour stretch will continue a very busy year for SpaceX. The company has already launched 23 missions in 2022, 14 of them dedicated Starlink flights.
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).