SpaceX Targets Thursday Evening for Starlink Satellite Launch from California

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on July 11, 2024 07:30
Spacex Prepares For Starlink Satellite Launch From California

SpaceX is set to launch 20 more Starlink satellites, including 13 with direct-to-cell capabilities, from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on Thursday night (July 11).

This launch is part of SpaceX's ongoing efforts to expand its Starlink megaconstellation, which currently consists of over 6,150 operational satellites.

Launch Details and Timeline

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Starlink spacecraft is scheduled to lift off during a four-hour window that opens at 10:39 p.m. EDT (7:39 p.m. local California time; 0239 GMT on July 12). This launch was delayed by one day, though SpaceX did not provide a reason for the change. SpaceX will livestream the launch on its X account, with coverage beginning about 15 minutes before liftoff.

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The Falcon 9's first stage is expected to return to Earth about eight minutes after launch, landing on the droneship "Of Course I Still Love You" stationed in the Pacific Ocean. This will mark the 19th launch and landing for this particular booster, with the record for a Falcon 9 first stage being 22 flights, set by SpaceX last month. The upper stage will continue to low Earth orbit, deploying the 20 satellites about 59 minutes after liftoff.

Starlink Expansion and Direct-to-cell Capabilities

This mission is the 68th Falcon 9 launch in 2024, with 48 of these missions dedicated to building out the Starlink constellation. More than 100 Starlink satellites currently have direct-to-cell capabilities, a number that is expected to grow significantly as SpaceX continues its launches. The direct-to-cell technology aims to enhance mobile connectivity globally, providing internet access to remote and underserved areas.

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The direct-to-cell capability is a significant technological advancement for the Starlink network. It allows satellites to communicate directly with mobile devices, bypassing the need for ground-based cell towers. This can be especially beneficial in regions where traditional infrastructure is lacking or has been damaged, such as during natural disasters. The inclusion of these satellites in the upcoming launch indicates SpaceX's commitment to continually improving and expanding the functionalities of its Starlink constellation.

Implications and Future Missions

The expansion of the Starlink constellation is part of SpaceX's broader goal to create a global broadband network. This network is intended to offer high-speed internet access worldwide, including regions where traditional infrastructure is lacking. The continuous addition of satellites also improves the network's coverage and reliability. The direct-to-cell technology, in particular, holds promise for revolutionizing internet access in remote and underserved regions, providing connectivity where it was previously unavailable or unreliable.

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SpaceX's relentless launch schedule underscores its commitment to rapidly developing and deploying new technologies. The success of these missions not only enhances global connectivity but also demonstrates the viability of reusable rocket technology, which significantly reduces the cost of access to space. The frequent reusability of the Falcon 9 first stage is a testament to SpaceX's advancements in rocket engineering and their impact on making space launches more economical.

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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