81ºF

SpaceX launch tonight should be visible locally

You should be able to see the Falcon 9 launch just after 9 p.m.

SpaceX is preparing to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX is preparing to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral. (News 6)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – SpaceX plans to launch the third in a series on Starlink satellites Monday night at 9:19 p.m, according to its website. Although the weather is not expected to be a factor in the launch, if for some reason the launch is scrubbed, the second attempt at the launch will be on Tuesday at 8:57 p.m.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the Falcon 9 rocket launching into space, tonight is a good night for that and you should be able to see part of the launch locally. When you go outside to watch the launch, look for a spot that is dark and away from lighting and dress for chilly weather. Our temperatures will be in the low 50s during the launch. Clear skies contribute to a better-than-average chance to see the launch.

The SpaceX website describes how Falcon 9’s first stage supported a Starlink mission in May 2019, the Iridium-8 mission in January 2019, and the Telstar 18 Vantage mission in September 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Approximately 45 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessel, “Ms. Tree,” will attempt to recover a payload fairing half.

The Starlink satellites will deploy at an altitude of 290 km. Prior to orbit raise, SpaceX engineers will conduct data reviews to ensure all Starlink satellites are operating as intended. Once the checkouts are complete, the satellites will then use their onboard ion thrusters to move into their intended orbits.

SpaceX is leveraging its experience in building rockets and spacecraft to deploy the world’s most advanced broadband internet system. Starlink will provide fast, reliable internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable. Starlink satellite flight operations take place in three phases: orbit raise, onstation service, and deorbit. After deployment, over the course of one to four months, the satellites use their onboard thrusters to raise from an altitude of 290 km to 550 km.

During this phase of flight, the satellites are closely clustered and their solar arrays are in a special low-drag configuration, making them appear more visible from the ground. Once the satellites reach their operational altitude of 550 km and begin onstation service, their orientation changes and the satellites become significantly less visible from the ground. On this flight, SpaceX is also testing an experimental darkening treatment on one satellite to further reduce the albedo of the body of the satellites.

Throughout flight operations, SpaceX shares high-fidelity tracking data with other satellite operators through the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron. Additionally, SpaceX is providing leading astronomy groups with predictive two-line elements in advance of launch so astronomers can better coordinate their observations with the satellites.

MISSION TIMELINE (all times approximate)

00:38:00 SpaceX launch director verifies go for propellant load
00:35:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway
00:35:00 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway
00:16:00 2nd stage LOX loading underway
00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
00:01:00 Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff

About the Author: