A Falcon 9 rocket carrying 40 of OneWeb’s Internet satellites is scheduled to lift off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Thursday at 14:13 EST (1913 GMT).
You can watch the launch live here on Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly through the company (opens in new tab). Coverage is expected to begin approximately 15 minutes prior to departure.
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If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9’s first stage will come back to Earth 7 minutes and 50 seconds after launch for a precision touchdown at Cape Canaveral.
It will be the 13th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab). Among those previous flights are SpaceX’s two private astronaut missions, Inspiration4 and Ax-1, which launched in September 2021 and April 2022, respectively.
The rocket’s upper stage, meanwhile, will continue to move to low Earth orbit (LEO). The OneWeb satellites will be deployed in small batches over 37 minutes, starting about 59 minutes after launch.
OneWeb is building a constellation of more than 600 satellites in LEO that will provide Internet service to customers worldwide.
Thursday’s mission, known as OneWeb 17, will bring the number of satellites in that network to 582, company representatives said in a mission description (opens in new tab). Just one more launch of another 40 satellites will complete the constellation’s construction, they added.
Most of OneWeb’s satellites have launched atop Russian-built Soyuz rockets operated by the French company Arianespace. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year ended that arrangement, and OneWeb had to find other rides in orbit.
The company did so in a short period of time by entering into agreements with SpaceX and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation. To date, OneWeb has flown twice with SpaceX (on Falcon 9 rockets) and once with NSIL (on an Indian GSLV Mark III vehicle).
The SpaceX launch contract is interesting as Elon Musk’s company is building its own broadband mega-constellation in LEO. SpaceX’s network, called Starlink, consists of more than 3,700 operational spacecraft and continues to grow.
Thursday is shaping up to be an eventful day for SpaceX. At At 17:05 EST (2205 GMT) on Thursday, the company’s Crew-5 astronaut mission for NASA is scheduled to leave the International Space Station and bring four astronauts back to Earth after five months in orbit.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the hunt for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).