Watch our live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 11:50 p.m. EST (0450 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, with 40 OneWeb internet satellites.
SpaceX is counting down to liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral at 11:50 p.m. EST Monday (0450 GMT Tuesday) with 40 more internet satellites for OneWeb. The Falcon 9 booster will return to Cape Canaveral for landing eight minutes later.
SpaceX delayed the launch of a different Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California Monday night due to bad weather. That mission was supposed to launch just 35 minutes before the OneWeb mission from Cape Canaveral.
The weather forecast in Florida is more favorable Monday night, with a greater than 90% chance of good weather for launch of the 40 OneWeb satellites.
The SpaceX launch team working in a control center just outside the gate of Cape Canaveral Space Force Station will begin loading super-chilled, densified kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants into the Falcon 9 vehicle at T-minus 35 minutes.
Helium pressurant will also flow into the rocket in the last half-hour of the countdown. In the final seven minutes before liftoff, the Falcon 9’s Merlin main engines will be thermally conditioned for flight through a procedure known as “chilldown.” The Falcon 9’s guidance and range safety systems will also be configured for launch.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on pad 40 in preparation for launch of the OneWeb 16 mission. Credit: Michael Cain / Spaceflight Now / Coldlife Photography
After liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will vector 1.7 million pounds of thrust — produced by nine Merlin engines — to steer downrange. The launch from California will head southeast over the Pacific Ocean, flying west of Baja California to target an orbit inclined 70 degrees to the equator. The Falcon 9 departing from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral will initially head southeast, then turn south to fly parallel to Florida’s east coast, aiming for a polar orbit at an inclination of 87 degrees.
The launcher will exceed the speed of sound in about one minute, then shut down its nine main engines nearly two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff.
The booster stage will separate from the Falcon 9’s upper stage, then fire pulses from cold gas control thrusters and extend titanium grid fins to help steer the vehicle back into the atmosphere. The lighter weight of the 40 OneWeb satellites will allow the Falcon 9 booster to set aside enough fuel for the return to launch site maneuver, which requires an extra burn to head back to Cape Canaveral.
A recovery ship is also on station in the Atlantic Ocean to retrieve the Falcon 9’s payload fairing after jettisoning from the rocket.
File photo from a previous mission showing 40 OneWeb satellites mounted on a dispenser before encapsulation inside a SpaceX payload fairing. Credit: OneWeb
The mission will target a 373-mile-high orbit inclined 87 degrees to the equator. The upper stage of the Falcon 9 will release the 40 OneWeb satellites beginning about 59 minutes after liftoff. The satellites will use xenon-fueled propulsion systems to reach their operating altitude 745 miles (1,200 kilometers) above Earth.
The OneWeb launch from Cape Canaveral will be the second of four planned SpaceX missions for the broadband internet provider, which suspended launches on Russian Soyuz rockets last year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Within weeks, OneWeb signed new contracts with SpaceX and New Space India Ltd., or NSIL, for launches on Falcon 9 and Indian GSLV Mk.3 rockets to finish building out the company’s satellite network.
The 40 satellites on-board the Falcon 9 rocket will bring the total number of OneWeb spacecraft launched to 544. OneWeb needs 588 operational satellites to complete its first-generation broadband network, or a total of nearly 650 spacecraft when counting spares.
Adding more relay stations to the constellation extends the network’s reach. OneWeb already provides internet services to communities in Alaska, Canada, and and Northern Europe where terrestrial fiber connectivity is unavailable. The 40 satellites on Monday night’s launch will help put Southern Europe, the United States, North Africa, the Middle East, Japan, and parts of Australia and India within OneWeb’s reach.
OneWeb’s contract with SpaceX was surprising to many satellite industry watchers because OneWeb is an indirect competitor in the broadband market. SpaceX sells Starlink service directly to consumers, while OneWeb sells to enterprises, internet service providers, maritime companies, and airlines to provide connectivity for entire businesses or communities.
ROCKETS: Falcon 9 (B1076.2)
PAYLOADS: 40 OneWeb satellites (OneWeb 16)
LAUNCH SITES: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida
LAUNCH DATES: Jan. 9, 2023
LAUNCH TIME: 11:50:17 p.m. (0450:17 GMT)
WEATHER FORECAST: Greater than 90% chance of acceptable weather at Cape Canaveral
BOOSTER RECOVERY: Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Southeast, then south from Cape Canaveral
TARGET ORBIT: 373 miles (600 kilometers), 87 degrees inclination
- 196th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
- 205th launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
- 2nd launch of Falcon 9 booster B1076
- 168th SpaceX launch from Florida’s Space Coast
- 109th Falcon 9 launch from pad 40
- 164th launch overall from pad 40
- 135th flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
- 2nd SpaceX launch for OneWeb
- 16th overall launch for OneWeb
- 2nd Falcon 9 launch of 2023
- 2nd launch by SpaceX in 2023
- 2nd orbital launch from Cape Canaveral in 2023