CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Another batch of Starlink internet satellites is on its way to orbit after a brilliant evening launch from Florida.
The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off just after 6 p.m., about 45 minutes after sunset. As the booster climbed into the clear twilight sky, the exhaust plume barely caught the light of the still-setting sun, creating a cloud visible for hundreds of miles across the state.
While the launch was visually dramatic, it was pretty much routine in most other ways for SpaceX. The company has launched over 30 batches of Starlink satellites, completing the first ‘shell’ of the constellation earlier this year.
Thursday’s launch carried a total of 48 more of the briefcase-sized satellites, bringing the total in orbit to around 1,700. Eventually, SpaceX envisions thousands of satellites providing internet access even the most remote areas of the planet.
Two commercial earth observation satellites also hitched a ride aboard this flight.
The next launch on the schedule for SpaceX is a week away, when a Falcon 9 will hoist NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer. IXPE, into orbit.
Before that, though, a ULA Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch a batch of experimental satellites for the military.
Space enthusiasts will have to set an alarm for both missions; the Atlas V STP launch window opens at 4 a.m. on Sunday; the IXPE launch is targeting 1 a.m. on December 9.
A Turkish communications satellite and another uncrewed cargo mission to the space station round out SpaceX's manifest for the rest of the year.