Watch SpaceX launch a new Starlink satellite fleet on a used rocket today

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX will launch its fourth Falcon 9 rocket of the month today (May 26) to carry a new fleet of Starlink broadband satellites into space and you can watch the action live online. 

The private spaceflight company will launch a full stack of 60 Starlink satellites on one of its newest rockets, a Falcon 9 dubbed B1063. The frequent flier is scheduled to blast off from Space Launch Complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station here in Florida at 2:59 p.m. EDT (1859 GMT). 

You can watch the launch live here and on the homepage, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning about 15 minutes before liftoff. You can also watch the launch directly via SpaceX and on YouTube.

Related: SpaceX's Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean-mapping satellite lifts off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Nov. 21, 2020. The rocket's first stage booster will launch a SpaceX Starlink mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Base, California on May 26, 2021. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Wednesday's flight is the 16th Falcon 9 mission for SpaceX so far in 2021 — none of which have flown on a shiny, new rocket. The mission, called Starlink 28, is the company's fourth such flight this month and will bring the total number of SpaceX broadband satellites launched into orbit up to 1,737.  

SpaceX created its Starlink program in hopes of providing high-speed internet access to users around the world, and as a means to help fund its deep space ambitions. The service is targeted to users in rural or remote areas that have little-to-no connectivity, although anyone can use it.

The rocket doing the lifting is one of the newest members of SpaceX's fleet — a booster designated B1063. Poised to make its second mission, the rocket's previous flight launched the ocean-mapping Sentinel 6 Michael Freilich satellite into space for NASA and the European Space Agency. That mission launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California in November 2020.

Following a trek across the country, the booster is now ready to loft its second payload: a full stack of SpaceX's own Starlink satellites. Typically the company saves its newer boosters for paying customers, but with the uptick of recent launches, SpaceX was ready to put B1063 to work. 

To that end, SpaceX rolled the rocket out to the pad on Monday night, and fired up the Falcon's nine Merlin 1D engines as part of a pre-launch test. The rocket was held down on the pad while its engines briefly fired up, allowing engineers to ensure it was working properly. 

The static fire test is a common part of SpaceX's prelaunch procedures; however, the company has skipped this step for more than half of the Falcon 9's launched so far this year. That could be because most of the rockets flown so far this year have flown many times. It could also be because SpaceX is trying to keep up a rapid launch pace, and having to do a static fire test before each one, slows down the schedule. 

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SpaceX created its Starlink program in hopes of providing high-speed internet access to users around the world, and as a means to help fund its deep space ambitions. The service is targeted to users in rural or remote areas that have little-to-no connectivity, although anyone can use it.

To date, the company has launched more than 1,600 of the flat-paneled satellites into space. SpaceX estimated it would need at least 1,440 satellites in its initial constellation to begin to roll out commercial service. While that hasn't happened just yet, the company is working towards a commercial rollout later this year.

Before it can offer up commercial service, SpaceX has been busy putting its Starlink program through its paces as part of a now global beta-testing program called "Better than nothing beta." The company reports that more than 500,000 people have signed up for the service so far. 

Prospective users can pay a small deposit sign up for the service now, via the company's website. However, it could be a few months before the actual service becomes available. 

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Wednesday's launch marks the 119th flight for SpaceX's 229-foot-tall (70 meters) Falcon 9 booster, and if all goes as planned, it will also be the 87th recovery of a Falcon 9 first stage booster since the company landed its first one in December 2015. 

SpaceX plans to land B1063 on the deck of one of its massive drone ships, named "Just Read the Instructions." 

The weather looks good for Wednesday's liftoff, with forecasters at the 45th Weather Squadron predicting a 90% chance of favorable launch conditions. The concerns are the potential for cumulus clouds. Officials also say that sea states at the recovery zone look good. 

There is a backup launch opportunity, if necessary, on Thursday (May 27), with conditions deteriorating slightly to offer an 80% chance of good launch weather. 

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Amy Thompson
Contributing Writer

Amy Thompson is a Florida-based space and science journalist, who joined as a contributing writer in 2015. She's passionate about all things space and is a huge science and science-fiction geek. Star Wars is her favorite fandom, with that sassy little droid, R2D2 being her favorite. She studied science at the University of Florida, earning a degree in microbiology. Her work has also been published in Newsweek, VICE, Smithsonian, and many more. Now she chases rockets, writing about launches, commercial space, space station science, and everything in between.