Update for 11 p.m. EDT: SpaceX has successfully launched its 1st 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. Deployment is coming up next. Read our full story here!
SpaceX plans to launch the first 60 members of its Starlink internet-satellite constellation to low Earth orbit tonight (May 23), and you can watch the liftoff live.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 GMT on May 24). Shortly thereafter, the booster's reusable first stage will come back to Earth for a landing attempt on a SpaceX "drone ship" stationed off the Florida coast.
A successful touchdown, by the way, would be the third for this particular Falcon 9 first stage. The booster also helped launch commercial communications satellites in September 2018 and January of this year.
Together, the 60 Starlink satellites weigh about 18.5 tons (16.8 metric tons), heavier than any other payload that SpaceX has launched, company founder and CEO Elon Musk said.
This will be the first of many launches for the Starlink constellation, which is designed to provide affordable internet access to people around the world. About 800 satellites are needed for "moderate" coverage, and the network may eventually consist of 12,000 or so spacecraft, Musk said.
Starlink is no mere sidelight for SpaceX; revenue from the constellation will help the company develop its Mars-colonizing transportation system, Musk has said.
Several other companies see big potential profits in internet satellites as well. For example, OneWeb and Amazon plan to loft megaconstellations of their own in the near future.
Tonight's launch was originally scheduled to take place on May 15, but SpaceX called off that try because of high winds. The company scrubbed an attempt the next night as well, with SpaceX saying it wanted to update software and perform additional checks.
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