SpaceX Launch Today, First of 2022, Will Send Dozens of Starlink Satellites Into Orbit

The first SpaceX rocket launch of the year is due to take place today as the company seeks to put even more of its Starlink satellites into Earth orbit.

The rocket, a partially reusable Falcon 9 model, will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 6 at 4:49 p.m. EST. There is a backup launch window on January 7 at 4:28 p.m. if Thursday's launch cannot go ahead.

SpaceX is due to host a live webcast of the launch on its YouTube channel starting about 15 minutes prior to liftoff. People can also catch the launch in person from the viewing area of the Kennedy Space Center if they purchase daily admission.

Starlink is a SpaceX venture that aims to provide satellite internet to customers around the world. It involves a constellation of thousands of small satellites in orbit around the Earth that communicate with small satellite dishes that customers buy from SpaceX and place outside of their homes.

Thursday's mission will deliver an additional 49 internet-beaming Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit. It is due to be the 33rd launch supporting the Starlink mission and if it is successful it will mean that the total number of Starlink satellites launched will be just under 2,000.

SpaceX says the first stage rocket booster propelling the satellites into space has been used three times before on other missions, including Inspiration4—the world's first all-civilian mission to orbit, which launched in September last year.

The satellites are due to be deployed by the Falcon 9 rocket around 15 minutes after launch.

The Starlink project and other plans for large satellite constellations have given rise to concerns that the large number of satellites involved could eventually disrupt the clear night sky and pose an issue for astronomers.

SpaceX says Starlink "leads the industry" in innovations to make its satellites less bright and reduce such disruption and the impact on astronomy, such as by applying a dark coating to the satellites.

Thursday's Starlink launch will mark the first orbital launch attempt of 2022 and will kick off an exciting year for space exploration.

SpaceX is due to continue working on its Mars-bound Starship rocket that is expected to have its debut launch early this year.

It's also going to be an important year for NASA, which is hoping to carry out the debut launch of its moon-bound SLS rocket in the spring.

Later this year the space agency is hoping to start taking the first images with the newly-launched James Webb Space Telescope and also smash into an asteroid as part of the DART mission to test Earth's defenses against wayward space rocks.

Falcon 9 rocket
A photo shows a Falcon 9 rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in September, 2021. SpaceX often launches dozens of its Starlink satellites. Joe Raedle/Getty