SpaceX continuing rapid Starlink cadence with Flight 3 for Jan. 20

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. on May 23, 2019. (Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Maggie Nave)

JAN. 14, 2020–SpaceX is poised to launch the third Starlink operational mission on January 20, a mere two days after the Crew Dragon In Flight Abort test, where SpaceX will be testing its Crew Dragon capsule from SLC-39A.

Starlink 3 is poised to launch from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral AFS. Scheduled liftoff time on January 20 is 12:20 p.m. EST (17:20 UTC). 60 satellites are onboard this mission, one of which carries a new coating by SpaceX to try to mitigate impacts on astronomy.

Weather conditions on launch are scheduled to be 74 degrees Fahrenheit, with 15 mile per hour winds gusting to 20 mph. There is a 40% chance of rain. The 45th Weather Squadron has not issued a statement yet on whether these conditions will affect the launch, but expect possible delays.

The Starlink booster is expected to perform a static fire test as well to gauge whether it is ready for launch. SpaceX’s incredible ability to achieve these rapid launch cadences relies on many factors going according to plan, static fire being no exception.

Back at pad 39A, engineers are currently integrating the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the In Flight Abort booster. The IFA test will determine whether Crew Dragon can perform an abort during one of the most perilous stages of flight – Max Q. IFA launch is scheduled for January 18, 2020, at 8 a.m. EST.

Starlink is SpaceX’s revolutionary new satellite broadband service. Providing communication with efficiency and latency rivaling that of land-based systems, Starlink is a constellation of originally 1,584 satellites, but up to 12,000 in further revisions slated to occupy the 450 kilometer low earth orbit.

Starlink has not been without scrutiny though, and many in the astronomy community, including the International Astronomical Union (IAU), have warned of dire consequences. The current 180 Starlink satellites are already notorious for dramatically flaring in rows, ruining astronomical surveys and greatly outshining anything in their area. While on this launch, one satellite will have a special coating SpaceX claims should mitigate this, that still now leaves 239 satellites disrupting astronomy. The extreme radio bubble that Starlink will create around Earth will also jeopardize certain projects like the Event Horizon Telescope, which famously captured the first image of a black hole in 2019.

To repeat, launch is scheduled for 12:20 p.m. on January 20. Stay tuned for more information.

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