New Falcon 9 rocket launch date confirmed

Update: SpaceX said at T-0 that it would be standing down from the Starlink and Falcon 9 launch “due to weather”. A new target date was set for 15:17 SAST on 1 October 2020.

“Targeting Thursday, October 1 at 9:17 EDT [Eastern Time] for launch of Starlink”.

SpaceX confirmed that it would be “targeting [Monday] for the launch of the 13th Starlink Mission” atop the Falcon 9 rocket, from the launch complex in Florida, United States.

Today’s launch will also see the Falcon 9 carry sixty Starlink Satellites into low-Earth orbit. Watch the live stream here.

Time and place

SpaceX confirmed across various social media platforms that the Falcon 9’s launch would take place from the Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39 in Florida on Monday 28 September 2020.

The launch sequence would begin at 10:22 Eastern Time (EDT), which would be 16:22 South African Standard Time (SAST). If you’re watching from elsewhere in the world, that would be:

  • 07:22 Pacific Time (PT)
  • 09:22 Central Time (CT)
  • 15:22 British Summer Time (BST)
  • 19:52 Indian Standard Time (IST)
  • 22:22 China Standard Time (CST)
  • 23:22 Japan Standard Time (JST)
  • 00:22 Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) on Tuesday 29 September.
  • 03:22 New Zealand Daylight Time (NZDT)

The stream will go live at 16:20 South African Standard Time.

SpaceX confirmed at T-30 that the weather is 40% favourable for liftoff. The Falcon 9 rocket will carry 60 Starlink satellites, the 13th Starlink batch, into low-Earth orbit. Space.com explains:

“Today’s flight, referred to as Starlink 12 by SpaceX, is actually the 13th big batch of satellites the company has shot into space. However, the company has been systematically de-orbiting its initial batch of 60 satellites that were launched in May 2019”. 

The first batch was a test-run. To date, 26 of the original 60 satellites have been de-orbited. Eight of the remaining satellites are in “decaying orbit”, while 26 are still operational.

SpaceX and NASA’s research mission

SpaceX is currently partnered with NASA in a major launch earmarked for October 2024 when a Falcon 9 rocket will carry NASA’s Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) into space.

SpaceX falcon 9 starlink
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen with the NASA/German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow-On spacecraft and onboard on 21 May 2018. Photo: AFP/NASA/Bill Ingalls

According to NASA, the IMAP will “help researchers better understand the boundary of the heliosphere”, a region where the constant flow of particles from our Sun, called the solar wind, collides with winds from other stars.

Also catching a ride on this mission are a critical National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) solar storm warning beacon and a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (NASA JPL) smallsat to explore lunar water deposits.

NASA explained in a press release that the IMAP will “collect and map neutral particles that make it through, as well as investigate the fundamental processes of how particles are accelerated in space”.

It will cost NASA approximately $109.4 million (R1.8 trillion) to launch the IMAP, the solar storm warning beacon and the JPL satellite.

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