Update as of 11:30 p.m. ET: SpaceX has successfully launched the large BlueWalker 3 communications satellite and 34 Starlink satellites, as well as landing a Falcon 9 rocket for a record 14th time. Read our full story here.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will take off for a record 14th time on Saturday night (Sept. 10), launching 34 of the company’s Starlink Internet satellites and a large direct smartphone link test spacecraft into orbit, and you can watch it live.
Two stages Falcon 9headed by Starlinks and AST SpaceMobile’s Blue Walker 3 test satellite, is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on Saturday at 21:20 EDT (0120 GMT on September 11). Watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly through the company (opens in new tab).
The liftoff will be the 14th for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, setting a new rocket reuse record. According to one SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab), the booster also helped launch SpaceX’s first astronaut mission, the Demo-2 flight to the International Space Station (ISS), in May 2020; the ANASIS-II satellite for the South Korean military in July 2020; the CRS-21 robotic cargo mission to the ISS in December 2020; joint flights of Transporter-1 and Transporter 3 in January 2021 and January 2022, respectively; and eight Starlink missions.
Connected: SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation launches in pictures
The Falcon 9 first stage will return to Earth for another landing on Saturday evening. It will make a precise landing on top SpaceX‘s A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship in the Atlantic Ocean 8.5 minutes after liftoff, if all goes according to plan.
Meanwhile, the rocket’s upper stage will continue to move its way to orbit. It is scheduled to deploy Blue Walker 3 just under 50 minutes after liftoff and 34 Starlinks an hour and 14 minutes later. Accomplishing all of this will require five engine burns — more than on any other Falcon 9 mission, according to the SpaceX mission description.
“One of our most complex missions,” the company’s founder and CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter on Friday (opens in new tab) (September 9).
star connection is SpaceX’s broadband constellation, which already provides service to millions of people around the globe. The company has launched more than 3,200 Starlink satellites to date and plans to create many more; it has permission to put 12,000 Starlink spacecraft into orbit and has applied for permission for up to 30,000 additional satellites.
Indeed, another Starlink array will go up this weekend, if all goes according to plan: A Falcon 9 carrying 54 Starlinks is scheduled to launch late Sunday night from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, which is attached to KSC.
Late last month, the founder and CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk announced an agreement with T-Mobile to provide direct connection to smartphones using Starlink Version 2 satellites, a larger and more powerful variant scheduled to come online next year. Saturday night’s launch will feature a similarly ambitious Blue Walker 3 craft.
BlueWalker 3 is a test satellite to be operated by Texas-based company AST SpaceMobile, which plans to build its own space-based cellular network.
“We’re pleased to see the industry’s excitement about the satellite-phone connectivity model we’ve been building for more than five years,” said Scott Wisniewski, chief strategy officer at AST SpaceMobile, in an emailed statement.
“Our upcoming launch of the BlueWalker 3 test satellite will be a great validation of this large and growing global market opportunity,” he added.
BlueWalker 3 will feature a phased array antenna covering 693 square feet (64 square meters) — the largest commercial communications array ever deployed in low Earth orbit, AST SpaceMobile representatives said in an emailed statement . The satellite may be brighter than everything in our night sky except the moon, New Scientist reported (opens in new tab).
SpaceX has launched 40 orbital missions in 2022 so far. Twenty-six of them are devoted mainly to the construction of the Starlink megaconstellation.
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) gold in Facebook (opens in new tab).