Published 1:44 PM EDT Apr 15, 2020
SpaceX teams are now targeting next week for the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center with a batch of the company’s internet-beaming broadband satellites.
If schedules hold, the 230-foot-tall rocket will vault off pad 39A at 3:16 p.m. next Thursday, followed by a first stage landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship in the Atlantic. A Space Force-issued weather forecast for the attempt is expected Monday.
This mission will mark SpaceX’s seventh for its Starlink constellation, an effort to transmit internet connectivity to remote and underserved users around the world. If successful, it will bring the network’s size to more than 400 small satellites in low-Earth orbit.
The mission comes as the coronavirus pandemic impacts all sectors of the economy – and space isn’t excluded. SpaceX has already had to delay one mission – an Argentinian communications satellite – due to the virus, but space as a whole is considered essential to economic activity and national security.
Though SpaceX operates pad 39A for its own missions, it’s still on Kennedy Space Center property. The center is at Stage 3 of NASA’s Response Framework, meaning employees who can must work from home and only mission-essential work is allowed on-center. Travel is limited, too.
Preparing for the agency’s upcoming Space Launch System rocket, for example, is considered essential, and hundreds of employees and contractors are supporting the program at KSC. On Monday, the rocket’s launch abort motor, which helps propel astronauts away in the event of an emergency, arrived at KSC from Promontory, Utah.
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