SpaceX is launching yet another Starlink mission – its fourth in a month – on Thursday afternoon at 4:18 PM EDT (1:18 PM PDT). The launch will carry 57 of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, which will join the existing constellation in space in order to prepare for SpaceX’s launch of Starlink broadband internet service.
Also on board the Falcon 9 rocket launching today are two BlackSky satellites, which will be used for BlackSky’s earth-imaging and data analytics services. This is another rideshare mission for SpaceX, organized under the program it introduced last year, which allows smallest operators to book rides on missions as part of shared payloads, allowing access to launch services for a starting price of around 1 million. SpaceX flew the first of these missions earlier this month, with a payload that included 58 of its Starlink satellites, alongside three satellites for client Planet.
The mission today will take off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the Falcon 9 booster used fo rate mission has flown four times previously, including for Crew Dragon’s first unscrewed demonstration mission, as well as twice before for earlier Starlink missions. Reuse of the boosters, combined with rideshare arrangements, are probably helping significantly offset launch costs as SpaceX continues to grow its own Starlink constellation at a rapid clip.
For this launch, all the Starlink satellites are equipped with the deployable sun visor systems that SpaceX came up with to limit the reflectivity of Starlink overall, since it operates relatively close to Earth and has posed an interference hazard with Earth-based night sky observation.
The launch will also include a landing of the first stage booster. This is the fourth launch that SpaceX has done in just three weeks – including the historic crewed Dragon demonstration mission that took place on May 30. It’s also the 10th Starlink launch to date. Next week, SpaceX has yet another launch scheduled for June 30 – a GPS satellite mission that is set to take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.