Hawthorne-based SpaceX will make another attempt late Thursday evening to launch several dozen internet satellites into orbit, following a series of aborted efforts.
The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the 57 Starlink satellites is scheduled to launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral at 10:12 p.m. California time.
SpaceX has tried three previous times to launch the satellites, but the missions have been delayed each time, either due to additional system checks or the weather in Florida. If Thursday night’s launch is delayed, a backup launch window is set for 9:50 p.m. Friday, California time.
The mission will be 10th batch of Starlink satellites placed into orbit by SpaceX in an effort to create a worldwide, low-cost internet service extending broadband service into traditionally under-served areas. The newest batch will increase the growing Starlink array to nearly 600 satellites.
It’s unclear exactly how many satellites will ultimately be included in the constellation. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said previously that the service could begin operating when it reaches 1,000 satellites, and the company has already begun soliciting people to be “beta” testers. But the more satellites that are deployed will mean more comprehensive internet coverage.
In addition to the 57 Starlink satellites, the SpaceX rocket will also carry a pair of satellites for Spaceflight Industries on behalf of Earth-observation company BlackSky.
BlackSky is in the process of building its satellite array, with four already in orbit. The launch will increase the array to six, and the company has an initial goal of launching 16 by early next year. The array could ultimately have as many as 60 satellites, but timing on that expansion hasn’t been determined.
When the launch occurs, SpaceX will again attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket by landing it on the company’s “Of Course I Still Love You” barge in the Atlantic Ocean. The recovery process is an effort to slash the costs of launches by allowing rockets to be reused.
The first stage of the rocket being used for the Starlink mission was used in four previous SpaceX launches, including two Starlink satellite missions.