SpaceX to launch 2 rockets 3 hours apart

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SpaceX plans to launch two more batches of its Starlink internet satellites today (Jan. 28), in doubleheader liftoffs just three hours apart.

A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 23 Starlink spacecraft is scheduled to launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida today during a 3.5-hour-long window that opens at 6:15 p.m. EST (2315 GMT). 

Another Falcon 9 will carry 22 more Starlinks skyward from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, during a nearly four-hour window that opens today at 9:16 p.m. EST (6:16 p.m. local time, and 0216 GMT on Jan. 29).

You can watch both launches via SpaceX’s account on X (formerly known as Twitter). In each case, coverage will begin about five minutes before the window opens.

Related: Starlink satellite train: How to see and track it in the night sky

On both of today’s launches, the Falcon 9’s first stage will came back to Earth about 8.5 minutes after liftoff for a landing on a SpaceX drone ship, which will be stationed at sea.

It will be the 18th launch and landing for the booster flying from KSC and the ninth for the one launching from Vandenberg, according to SpaceX. The company’s reuse record is 19 launches, set by a Falcon 9 just last month.

The Falcon 9 upper stages, meanwhile, will deploy the Starlink batches into low Earth orbit a little over an hour after each launch today. 

Today’s launches will be the eighth and ninth of the year already for SpaceX, which has said it’s aiming for 144 orbital missions in 2024. 

In keeping with that ambitious plan, there’s another SpaceX mission right around the corner: A Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch Northrop Grumman’s robotic Cygnus cargo craft toward the International Space Station on Tuesday (Jan. 30). 

Today’s Starlink doubleheader comes on a somber anniversary. On Jan. 28, 1986, NASA’s space shuttle Challenger broke apart less than two minutes after liftoff, killing all seven astronauts on board.

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