SpaceX is launching another batch of 60 broadband internet satellites today — its fourth Starlink launch of 2020, and its seventh launch of a large batch of the satellites in total. This will put its total operational constellation size at 418, extending its lead as the world’s largest private satellite operator.
The launch is set to take place at 3:30 PM EDT (12:30 PM PDT) from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and the live stream above should kick off around 15 minutes prior to that takeoff time, or at around 3:15 PM EDT (12:15 PM PDT). The launch will also include an attempt to land and recover the Falcon 9 booster used for this mission, using SpaceX’s “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship stationed in the Atlantic ocean.
The Falcon 9 used in this mission has previously been used, during the first flight of SpaceX’s astronaut spacecraft Crew Dragon to the International Space Station during an uncrewed demonstration mission, as well as during a RADARSAT launch and a previous Starlink launch. It’s not the only part of the launch vehicle that’s being reused, either: The fairing that protects the Starlink satellites was flown before on SpaceX’s AMOS-17 mission.
SpaceX is still actively launching despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and still intends to bring its Starlink broadband service online for its first customers starting later this year, with initial coverage available in the northern U.S. and Canada. Through subsequent launches, it hopes to then expand to “near global coverage” by sometime next year.
This week, the company asked the FCC for permission to move its satellites to a lower operational orbital as part of its efforts to reduce the constellation’s potential to contribute to space debris. This could also help address complaints that SpaceX’s Starlink satellites interfere with ground-based night-sky observation and science, as a lower orbit would mean the spacecraft appear less bright.