SpaceX plans to send a space tug aloft along with another big batch of Starlink internet satellites on Sunday night (Sept. 4).
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to lift off Sunday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on the east coast of Florida, carrying 51 Starlink internet satellites to orbit. Launch time is set for 10:09 p.m. EDT (0209 GMT on Sept. 5). Watch it here in the window above, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company (opens in new tab).
Also on board with Starlink Group 4-20 will be Sherpa-LTC2, a space tug provided by Seattle-based company Spaceflight. The tug will carry a payload for Boeing’s Varuna Technology Demonstration Mission (Varuna-TDM), which “aims to test V-band communications for a proposed constellation of 147 non-geostationary broadband satellites,” according to SpaceNews (opens in new tab).
The first Sherpa-LTC orbital transfer vehicle was removed from a January 2022 SpaceX launch opportunity due to a propellant leak, SpaceNews added.
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Sunday’s flight plan calls for SpaceX to bring the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket back to Earth for a soft touchdown on the droneship Just Read the Instructions, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The landing — the seventh for this particular booster — is scheduled for roughly 8.5 minutes after launch.
Sherpa-LTC2 is scheduled to deploy from the Falcon 9’s upper stage 49.5 minutes after liftoff, and the Starlinks will follow suit about 23 minutes after that, SpaceX wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).
SpaceX has already sent more than 3,000 Starlink satellites into orbit, in an effort to create a huge constellation for broadband service targeted for remote areas. SpaceX has launched more than 25 Starlink-centric missions in 2022 already.
This will be SpaceX’s 40th launch of the year and will continue adding to the Starlink megaconstellation. SpaceX has approval to launch 12,000 Starlink satellites and has asked an international regulator to give the thumbs-up to an additional 30,000.
In late August, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced plans to beam connectivity directly to smartphones using Starlink, in conjunction with T-Mobile. Another deal announced Tuesday (Aug. 30) will see Starlink service beamed to Royal Caribbean cruise ships.