A Falcon 9 rocket launch of 46 new Starlink satellites will aim for liftoff Friday afternoon on the third mission in less than five weeks from Vandenberg Space Force Base.
The Space Exploration Technologies rocket launcher will attempt to lift off at 2:40 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-4 at the south base.
The rocket will carry 46 Starlink satellites as SpaceX continues to expand its starship constellation to provide high-speed internet capability around the world.
The mission has an instant launch window to ensure the satellites arrive at their place in space.
If the launch doesn’t happen Friday, SpaceX said a backup opportunity is available at 10:40 p.m. Saturday.
The military issued advisories to sailors and pilots warning to stay out of the area Friday afternoon due to the Starlink mission.
The first-stage booster, making its 10th flight in support of the mission, has previously launched several East Coast spacecraft, including Crew-1, Crew-2, SXM-8, CRS-23, IXPE, Transporter-4, Transporter -5, Globalstar FM15 and a batch of Starlink boats.
After the stages separate, Falcon 9’s first-stage booster will return to Earth and land on the Of Course I Still Love You drone stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
A drone landing means residents of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties won’t hear the sonic booms that accompany the first-stage booster landing at Vandenberg.
Vandenberg has restricted access, but the launch of the Falcon 9 rockets can be seen from various sites around the Lompoc Valley and, as the space booster rises, from other locations on the central coast, if the marine layer cooperates. .
Popular viewing spots in the Lompoc area include the west end of Ocean Avenue, the top of Harris Grade Road, and locations in Vandenberg Village including Providence Landing Park.
This will be the seventh batch of Starlink satellites to be launched from Vandenberg since September.
Starlink’s launch will come days after the Federal Communications Commission announced that it had rejected an application for Starlink’s support through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund program.
In a press release, the FCC argued that Starlink and another company, LTD Broadband, had failed to demonstrate that they could provide the service.
“After careful legal, technical and political review, we reject these requests. Consumers deserve reliable and affordable broadband,” said President Jessica Rosenworcel. “We must make the best use of scarce universal service financial resources as we move towards a digital future that demands ever stronger and faster networks. We can’t afford to subsidize companies that don’t deliver promised speeds or aren’t likely to meet program requirements.
“Starlink’s technology is very promising, but the question before us was whether to publicly subsidize its still-in-development technology for consumer broadband – which requires users to buy a $600 dish – with nearly $900 million in universal service funds through 2032.”
One commissioner, Brendan Carr, said he was surprised at the decision as he was on a work trip to a remote area of Alaska.
“I will have more to say because we should be making it easier for unserved communities to access service, not dismissing proven satellite technology that today delivers robust, high-speed service. To be clear, this is a decision that tells families across the country that they should continue to wait on the wrong side of the digital divide, even though we have the technology to improve their lives now,” Carr said in a written statement.
A live webcast of the mission can be found on SpaceX’s webpage and on YouTube with plans to begin the broadcast approximately 5 minutes before scheduled liftoff.