SpaceX, the rocket company founded by the tech mogul Elon Musk, plans to launch a Spanish radar satellite atop one of its go-to rockets on Thursday morning.
If all goes well, the satellite, called Paz, will keep an eye on the oceans of the world for ship traffic.
But there’s most likely a payload hitching a ride on the rocket that SpaceX isn’t publicizing in its press kit: two smaller satellites that are part of Musk’s plan to bathe Earth in high-speed internet coverage.
The scale of the proposal, informally known as Starlink, is incredible. In the coming years, the company hopes to launch 4,425 interlinked broadband-internet satellites into orbit some 700 to 800 miles above Earth, plus another 7,500 spacecraft into lower orbits.
That’s nearly 12,000 satellites, more than twice the number of all satellites launched in history, according to a tally by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Musk and SpaceX have said little about their plan since announcing it in 2015. But since it would need approval from the Federal Communications Commission, public documents about the effort are released regularly, though quietly.
According to FCC documents made public this month, the organization in November gave SpaceX permission to launch the two experimental spacecraft, called Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, to test its space-based internet concept.
The mission is set to lift off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Thursday at 9:17 a.m. ET — one day later than planned — aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
The weather looked good for a launch on Wednesday morning, but SpaceX became concerned about the risk of wind high in the atmosphere messing with the rocket’s steering.
“High altitude wind shear data shows a probable 2% load exceedance,” Musk tweeted on Wednesday. “Small, but better to be paranoid. Postponing launch to tomorrow, assuming winds are better then.”.. see more