SpaceX is launching another set of Starlink satellites for its growing constellation, as it prepares to launch broadband internet services for customers on the ground as early as later this year. The launch is set to take off at 9:19 PM EST (6:19 PM PST) on Monday January 6, and the live video stream of the mission will begin above approximately 15 minutes prior to lift-off time (at around 9:04 PM EST (6:04 PM PST).
This launch will add 60 more satellites to the SpaceX Starlink constellation, joining 60 launched at the end of last year, and a previous group of 60 launched earlier in 2019 for testing and experimentation purposes. SpaceX will operate a constellation of around 180 satellites (some of the original batch are no longer in operation), which is the most in active use by any private satellite operator currently in business.
SpaceX plans to launch many more satellites for Starlink, which aims to provide high-speed bandwidth to areas where customers currently enjoy only spotty, low-speed or a complete lack of service. Initially, Starlink will aim to provide service in the U.S. and Canada by the end of 2020, with as many as 20 more launches of similarly sized batches of Starlink satellites to take place over the course of the year.
SpaceX has sought permission to launch as many as 30,000 satellites for its global internet service, noting that it is “taking steps to responsibly scale Starlink’s total network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users’ anticipated needs.” The company has received criticism from the scientific community because of the impact its Starlink constellation will have on night sky viewing, but the company says it’s taking steps including painting the sides of Starlink satellites that face the Earth black to minimize their impact on Earth-based space observation.
This will be SpaceX’s first launch of the year, and it coming so soon in January should give you an idea of the aggressive pace the company plans for the remainder of 2020. The launch is using a Falcon 9 booster that flew three times previously, including twice in 2019 and it’ll also include a recovery attempt for both the booster, as well as one half of the fairing that protects the cargo atop the rocket.