A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will fly for a record-setting 12th time tonight (March 18), and you can watch the historic action live.
The two-stage Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch 53 of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station tonight at 11:24 p.m. EDT (0324 GMT on March 19). You can watch it live here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company. Coverage is expected to begin about 15 minutes before liftoff.
It will be the 12th launch for this Falcon 9 first stage, setting a new record for SpaceX rocket reusability. The booster previously lofted the RADARSAT Constellation mission for the Canadian Space Agency in June 2019; SpaceX’s first crewed flight, the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station, in May 2020; the SXM-7 satellite for SiriusXM in December 2020; and eight other Starlink missions, SpaceX representatives wrote in a mission description.
The first stage will try to ace its 12th landing as well: SpaceX aims to bring it down on the droneship Just Read The Instructions, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
SpaceX has launched 2,282 Starlink satellites to date, 2,033 of which are currently operational, according to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The broadband constellation is providing service to customers around the world, including in Ukraine, whose communications infrastructure has been damaged by invading Russian forces. SpaceX has sent Starlink terminals and other hardware to the war-torn nation, a move that has been applauded by grateful Ukrainian government officials.
The Starlink network isn’t done growing, as tonight’s launch shows. SpaceX wants it to get much bigger, in fact: The company has permission to launch 12,000 Starlink satellites, and it has applied for approval from an international regulator to launch 30,000 more on top of that.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.