9:30am ET Monday Update: SpaceX scrubbed Monday’s launch attempt due to strong upper level winds. The company will now target a back-up launch opportunity on 9:28am ET (14:28 UTC) Tuesday, when weather conditions are expected to be more favorable.
Original post: Weather-permitting, SpaceX will attempt to launch its third batch of operational Starlink satellites on Monday morning. Liftoff is scheduled for 9:49am ET (14:49 UTC) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
However, weather is a legitimate concern. The forecast calls for a 50-percent chance of acceptable conditions at the surface, and there are also concerns about strong upper-level winds that may also preclude a launch. Weather conditions appear to be more favorable for a back-up launch attempt on Tuesday morning.
This will be the fourth launch of 60 Starlink satellites, the first of which occurred in May 2019. The first batch of satellites was “experimental,” and the company launched its first operational satellites on the Starlink-1 mission in November. Since then it has been flying missions at a cadence of once per month. With this flight, SpaceX will have a total of about 230 satellites on orbit. Later this year, the company hopes to begin deploying Internet service to the United States and Canada, with global coverage beginning in 2021.
These satellites will be launched to an altitude of 290km and then will raise their orbits to an altitude of 550km over the next one to four weeks, SpaceX said.
The “trains” of Starlink satellites have raised widespread concern in the astronomical community, whose members worry about the effect of potentially thousands of these small spacecraft on their observations. In response, SpaceX has begun experimenting with darkening treatment and will consider other measures. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he is sympathetic to the concerns of astronomers and will take steps to ensure the fidelity of astronomical observations.
Monday’s launch attempt will be flown by a thrice-used first stage, which previously lifted the first Starlink mission in May 2019, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and the Telstar 18 VANTAGE mission in September 2018. It will attempt a landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship. In addition, SpaceX has deployed the Ms. Tree vessel to attempt to recover a payload fairing half. The webcast should begin about 15 minutes before liftoff.