CAP CANAVERAL, Fla .– SpaceX is preparing to launch its first rocket of 2022 on Thursday evening (January 6) and you can watch the action live online.
The private spaceflight company will launch a stack of 49 Starlink satellites on one of its previously flown Falcon 9 rockets. (The company is expected to confirm the number of satellites closer to take-off.)
The mission is scheduled to take off at 4:49 p.m. EST (2149 GMT) from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, here in Florida, with a backup time of 6:47 p.m. EST (2347 GMT), in the event of inclement weather. or other technical delays.
You can watch the launch live in the window above and on the Space.com homepage, courtesy of SpaceX. Live coverage will begin approximately 15 minutes before takeoff. You can also watch the launch directly through SpaceX and on YouTube.
Related: SpaceX’s most flown Falcon 9 rocket is a soot veteran after 10 launches and landings (photos)
Thursday’s flight will mark the first Falcon 9 mission for SpaceX so far in 2022 after setting a new corporate record for the most rocket launches in one year with 31 rockets launched in 2021. (This record had already established in 2020, with SpaceX launching 26 Falcon 9 rockets.)
SpaceX continues this momentum for the new year. As such, we got to see several rockets launched in January, as the company tries to maintain its rapid launch rate.
Typically, SpaceX launches most of its Starlink satellites from its facilities at the Cape Canaveral Space Force station, but there is currently another Falcon 9 rocket on Pad 40. Next week, on January 13, this rocket will launch the Transporter 3 mission, a carpooling effort for SpaceX, where its state-of-the-art rocket will carry dozens of small satellites for a variety of customers. As the name suggests, this will be the third dedicated carpooling mission launched by SpaceX. (Carriers 1 and 2 both launched in 2021.) It will also mark the 34th dedicated Starlink mission to date.
The Italian space agency‘s COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation (CSG 2) radar reconnaissance satellite is also expected to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket this month. This mission is expected to be SpaceX’s next launch from Cape Canaveral after the Transporter 3 mission.
Thursday’s flight also continues SpaceX’s efforts to launch its newly upgraded Starlink Internet satellites. As part of an effort to make satellite operations more efficient, the company recently upgraded its satellites with the ability to communicate with each other via laser links. It will also reduce their dependence on ground stations here on Earth.
If successful, the flight could bring the total number of Starlink satellites launched to nearly 2,000, as it strives to fill its planned orbital shells. The company has approved up to 30,000 broadband satellites and may consider launching even more.
Related: SpaceX launches Falcon 9 rocket on record 11th flight carrying 52 Starlink satellites
Ahead of Thursday’s launch, SpaceX deployed the Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday afternoon to begin its final preparations for launch. Sometimes this includes a static firing test of the rocket’s nine 1D Merlin engines to make sure everything is in order before flight. SpaceX plans to let this one fly without its typical pre-launch test fire, which it has done more and more often recently. Either way, the Falcon is on the pad, ready to fly.
Meteorologists from the 45th Space Delta predicted an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch, with the only problem being the potential for cumulus cloud formation.
After a successful takeoff, the Falcon 9 is expected to land on the deck of SpaceX’s latest drone, “A Shortfall of Gravitas”.