Update July 11, 9.30 a.m.ET: SpaceX has postponed the start on Saturday morning "to have more time to check out". The company announces that it will announce a new start day after confirmation.
Original story: Just over a week after the launch of a GPS satellite for the Space Force, SpaceX is back with another launch of its radiant Starlink satellites. The company's Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and launch 57 Starlink spaceships and two hitchhiking EarthSatellite satellites from BlackSky.
The flight is the latest in SpaceX’s ongoing effort to flesh out the proposed massive Starlink constellation, which aims to provide a broadband internet connection from space. The company has permission to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites from the Federal Communications Commission, a swarm of spacecraft that will radiate internet coverage anywhere in the world. After this launch, SpaceX 595 will have launched its Starlink satellites (although at least one has left orbit while some others have failed since reaching space).
The mission is the second Starlink launch, involving another company's satellites for the journey. As a rule, SpaceX launched its Starlink probes alone in batches of 60 pieces. Earlier in June, SpaceX launched 58 Starlink satellites and three tiny imaging satellites from Planet. Spaceflight, a broker that will find space for satellites on upcoming launches, has ensured that the BlackSky satellites fly on this mission. SpaceX also has its own program to arrange ridesharing on its Falcon 9 rocket that works directly with customers, as was the case with the latest Planet ridesharing.
The Starlink satellites launched at this launch will also have a relatively new function. They are equipped with an extendable visor, which is called sun protection and is intended to prevent sunlight from being reflected by the most shiny parts of the satellites, especially the antennas. The goal is to reduce the overall brightness of the Starlink spacecraft in orbit so that it appears as dark as possible in the night sky. SpaceX launched one of these parasols on a previous Starlink flight in early June. This is the first start with the entire fleet wearing their sights.
The new SpaceX parasols are a direct response to concerns raised by the astronomy community regarding Starlink. After the first launch of the SpaceX satellites, astronomers noticed how bright the spaceship appeared in the sky, and scientists were concerned that such a massive constellation of shiny satellites would affect their observations of the universe. To observe distant celestial objects, astronomers often rely on long-term exposures of the night sky – and a satellite that zooms through an image leaves a bright streak that can ruin an observation.
After discussions with leading astronomy groups, the parasol is the latest solution that SpaceX has developed. The company tried to coat one of its Starlink satellites in early January to make it appear darker. This solution has not dampened the vehicle enough to dispel everyone's fears. Further changes could become apparentB. Change the direction of the satellites when they reach their final orbits.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 was scheduled to take off from the company's launch site at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:54 a.m.CET. SpaceX uses one of its used missiles for the mission, a Falcon 9 that has already flown into space and back four times. After launch, the rocket will attempt to land on one of SpaceX's drone ships in the Atlantic, which may allow the vehicle to fly for the sixth time. In June, after a flight, SpaceX set a new record for landing the same Falcon 9 for the fifth time. The company could repeat the feat with this mission.
If everything goes well, the two BlackSky satellites will only be deployed a little more than an hour after launch. The Starlink satellites will then be deployed approximately 30 minutes later. SpaceX postponed the original launch date for this mission a second time due to bad weather on July 8th and July 11th. The company claimed that the company needed more time to check out the vehicle. When SpaceX can be launched, the company's live stream begins about 15 minutes before the launch.
Update July 8, 12:00 p.m. ET: SpaceX postponed its launch on July 8 due to bad weather in the region. The company decided to countdown the launch until one minute before the scheduled launch to collect data from the missile.