ORLANDO, Fla. — SpaceX is scheduled to send the third batch of its planned Internet constellation to low-Earth orbit Monday night — with one important modification.
One of the 60 satellites SpaceX is launching will have a non-reflective coating added to the bottom, to test whether it can be dimmed enough to assuage concerns from the astronomical community that the satellites are too bright in the night sky and impacts data collection.
The launch is set to take off at 9:19 p.m. and from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 40.
Weather conditions are expected to be more than 90% “go” for launch, with the only concern being some cloud cover, according to the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron.
SpaceX launched its first 120 Starlink satellites in May. The plan is to have thousands of satellites — perhaps more than 30,000 one day — in orbit around the Earth, allowing even severely underserved areas to have access to reliable, high-speed broadband Internet.
But since they hit the skies, the train of Starlink satellites have been spotted across the globe, leading people to mistake them for stars, celestial bodies or even UFOs.
For the past six months, SpaceX has been collaborating with the American Astronomical Society to find a solution to the concerns of brightness, reducing the company’s footprint in the night sky.
“We are going to get it done,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, according to a report by SpaceNews.
The coating, though, is still untested. If Friday’s launch is successful, it will also help SpaceX analyze how the addition of the coating impacts the satellite’s thermal performance, before applying it to others in future missions.