SpaceX is set to launch is latest batch of Starlink satellites on Tuesday at 10:31 AM EDT (7:31 AM PDT). This is the 11th of SpaceX Starlink missions so far, and will include 58 of the company’s broadband internet satellites, as well as three of customer Planet’s SkySats spacecraft.
This mission is important as SpaceX continues to work towards launching its Starlink service, which will offer low-latency, high-speed internet connections to customers in areas that have traditionally had little or poor service. But it’s also significant because it involves SpaceX’s most advanced realization of its rocket reusability program to date.
The first stage booster for the Falcon 9 flying today’s mission has flown a total of five times, including once in 2018, twice in 2019 and twice already earlier this year. This will be the sixth launch for the booster – a record for SpaceX, and for reusable rocketry in general – and it will also attempt to land the rocket stage once again using its ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ drone landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
Three of the missions that this Falcon 9 booster flew previously were Starlink flights, which demonstrates how important reusability is for SpaceX in particular when it’s flying its own missions. The shared payload with Planet will somewhat offset its operating costs, but this (and all Starlink launches) are mostly just cost that SpaceX has to absorb for now – until Starlink actually launches a paid service for customers and starts to generate revenue.
Today’s mission also includes reuse of a Falcon 9 fairing (the cone that protects the payload at the top of the rocket) that was used on a previous mission – SpaceX’s fourth Starlink launch. Re-using the fairing is another way that SpaceX can mitigate costs for these missions, and the company has been making progress in its recovery process for this part, which costs around $6 million new for each launch.
The broadcast for the launch will begin at around 15 minutes prior to the actual launch window – so at around 10:16 AM EDT (7:16 AM PDT).