The latest SpaceX Starlink launch is now set for this Saturday afternoon (BST) from Florida’s Cape Canaveral. Blast-off was originally scheduled for June but has been delayed a few times, most recently due to bad weather on Wednesday.
SpaceX tweeted on Wednesday: “Standing down from today’s mission due to weather,” approximately 10 minutes before the scheduled launch time.
Standing down from today’s mission due to weather
If it finally gets off the ground on Saturday at 4pm BST (8am PT) as planned, the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload will include the first batch of SpaceX’s broadband satellites fitted with sunshades to reduce their brightness.
Since Elon Musk’s pioneering space company began launching the small satellites more than one year ago, astronomers and other observers have dismayed by the amount of sunlight the orbiting routers reflect, frequently interfering with astronomical observations.
SpaceX has since been working with major astronomical organisations on the problem.
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SpaceX has pledged to fix the issue as they accelerate plans to launch tens of thousands of the satellites over the next few years.
Initially, SpaceX tried launching a so-called ‘darksat’, essentially a Starlink satellite with a dark coating.
However, the results from this approach were mixed.
The company next developed and tested a deployable sunshade it dubbed ‘VisorSat’.
Last year, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) said in a statement: “The scientific concerns are twofold.
“Firstly, the surfaces of these satellites are often made of highly reflective metal, and reflections from the Sun in the hours after sunset and before sunrise make them appear as slow-moving dots in the night sky.
“Although most of these reflections may be so faint that they are hard to pick out with the naked eye, they can be detrimental to the sensitive capabilities of large ground-based astronomical telescopes, including the extreme wide-angle survey telescopes currently under construction.
“Secondly, despite notable efforts to avoid interfering with radio astronomy frequencies, aggregate radio signals emitted from the satellite constellations can still threaten astronomical observations at radio wavelengths.
“Recent advances in radio astronomy, such as producing the first image of a black hole or understanding more about the formation of planetary systems, were only possible through concerted efforts in safeguarding the radio sky from interference.”
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One VisorSat was launched earlier this month to test the new tech and the next launch will carry the first batch to be fully shaded.
The mission will come on the heels of a June 30 Falcon 9 rocket launch, which lofted a new GPS satellite for the US military.
That was followed by the first SpaceX landing after sending a military satellite to space.
Saturday’s launch is a ride-share, meaning room has been made for a pair of Earth-observing satellites for the company BlackSky.
How to watch SpaceX launch 57 Starlink satellites:
SpaceX will be hosting a live stream of the event on its YouTube channel and NASA will also be showing the launch on its NASA TV website.
Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious yet controversial plan to launch 12,000 satellites into Earth’s orbit, with the aim of supplying internet to every corner of the globe.
The first of the 12,000 satellites were launched in May 2019, and month by month Elon Musk’s firm has steadily been increasing its numbers in the skies.
The plans were met with criticism from astronomers who claimed satellite constellations were obscuring the view of the cosmos.
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