SpaceX will launch 56 more of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit early Thursday morning (Jan. 26), and you can watch the liftoff live.
If all goes according to plan, the first stage of the two-stage Falcon 9 will come back to Earth about eight minutes and 45 seconds after liftoff. The booster will touch down vertically on the SpaceX droneship Just Read the Instructions, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, several hundred miles off the Florida coast.
It will be the ninth launch and landing for this particular booster. Among its previous flights are the Crew-3 and Crew-4 astronaut missions to the International Space Station for NASA, two robotic cargo flights to the orbiting lab and one Starlink mission, SpaceX wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).
The rocket’s upper stage will continue hauling the 56 satellites to low Earth orbit, deploying all of them just under 19 minutes after liftoff.
The launch will add yet more satellites to SpaceX’s giant Starlink constellation, which provides internet service to customers around the world.
Starlink already consists of more than 3,400 operational satellites (opens in new tab), and that eye-popping number will continue to grow far into the future. Elon Musk‘s company already has permission to loft 12,000 Starlink spacecraft, and it has applied for approval to deploy nearly 30,000 more satellites on top of that.
Thursday’s launch will be the sixth of 2023 already for SpaceX. If the company keeps up this cadence — a big if, given that it’s still only January — it will break its single-year launch record of 61, which it set in 2022.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).