Update for 7:45 p.m. ET on October 3: SpaceX is pulling out of the planned Starlink launch tonight to allow more time for pre-launch checks, the company announced via Twitter (opens in a new tab) Monday evening (October 3). The mission will launch on Tuesday (Oct. 4), unless the company’s Crew-5 astronaut mission lifts off as scheduled on Wednesday (Oct. 5); in this case, SpaceX will withdraw from Starlink launch once again (opens in a new tab) to focus on Crew-5.
SpaceX will launch 52 more Starlink internet satellites into orbit tonight (October 3), and you can watch the liftoff live.
The Stellar Link satellites must take off at the top of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California tonight at 7:56 p.m. EDT (2356 GMT; 4:56 p.m. local California time). You can watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceXWhere directly through the company (opens in a new tab).
If all goes as planned, the Falcon 9 first stage will return to Earth and make a precise landing 8.5 minutes after launch on the SpaceX Of Course I Still Love You drone, which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
Related: SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation launches in photos
This will be the fifth take-off and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in a new tab). The rocket previously helped launch missions NROL-85 and NROL-87 for the US National Reconnaissance Office, the Sarah-1 radar satellite for the German government and another Starlink batch.
As Falcon 9’s first stage arrives for a landing tonight, the upper stage will continue to head into orbit. The 52 Starlink satellites are expected to be deployed approximately 62 minutes after liftoff.
Starlink is SpaceX’s ever-growing megaconstellation that delivers internet service to customers around the world. SpaceX has already launched nearly 3,400 Starlink satellites so far and plans to orbit many more: the company has clearance to launch 12,000 spacecraft and has requested clearance to launch up to 30,000 in more.
Tonight’s launch will be SpaceX’s 44th orbital mission of 2022. That count will continue to climb this week; Elon Musk’s company plans to launch the Crew-5 Astronaut Mission for NASA on Wednesday (October 5) and two commercial communications satellites on Thursday (October 6).
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).