SpaceX's growing 'megaconstellation' of Starlink satellites is set to get even bigger this afternoon, with the launch of 60 more satellites.
Elon Musk's space firm will launch its seventeenth batch of Starlink satellites on board a Falcon 9 rocket at 08:03 EDT (13:03 GMT) today.
The launch will bring the number of Starlink satellites in orbit to around 950.
The Starlink constellation is designed to provide a low-latency, broadband internet system to meet the needs of consumers across the globe.
However, astronomers have raised concerns about the mission, and claim the satellites are so bright that they've affected a number of astronomical observations.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
In response, SpaceX has started adding a dark sunshade to some of the Starlink satellites to make them less visible in the night sky.
The launch will take place from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, and will be streamed live on SpaceX's YouTube channel
Astronomers have raised concerns about the brightness of the Starlink satellites in the night sky.
In a recent study, published in arXiv, researchers led by Stefano Gallozzi, wrote: 'Depending on their altitude and surface reflectivity, their contribution to the sky brightness is not negligible for professional ground based observations.
'With the huge amount of about 50,000 new artificial satellites for telecommunications planned to be launched in Medium and Low Earth Orbit, the mean density of artificial objects will be of 1 satellite for square sky degree; this will inevitably harm professional astronomical images.'
Based on the concerns, SpaceX has started fitting some of its satellites with dark sunshades, dubbed DarkSat.
Jeremy Tregloan-Reed, a University of Antofagasta astronomer on the observational team that assessed the prototype, said: 'I would not consider DarkSat as a victory but instead a good step in the right direction.'
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The launch was initially scheduled to take place on January 18, but was pushed back due to poor weather conditions.
It will take place from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, and will be streamed live on SpaceX's YouTube channel .
SpaceX said: 'SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, January 20 for its seventeenth Starlink mission, which will launch 60 Starlink satellites from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center. The instantaneous window is at 8:02 a.m. EST, or 13:02 UTC.'
Following liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will release the Starlink satellites into orbit, before the first stage attempts to land on SpaceX's drone ship, 'Just Read the Instructions' in the Atlantic Ocean.
If successful, this will be SpaceX's 72nd recovery of a first stage booster.
This particular Falcon 9 rocket is known as B1051, and has previously carried a range of payloads into space, including an unscrewed Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station in 2019.
The Starlink programme is designed to bring a reliable and low-cost internet service to remote and rural areas.
SpaceX explained: 'With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.'
In total, SpaceX plans to fill its constellation with 1,440 spacecraft.
Following liftoff, the Falcon 9 rocket will release the Starlink satellites into orbit, before the first stage attempts to land on SpaceX's drone ship, 'Just Read the Instructions' in the Atlantic Ocean
If successful, this will be SpaceX's 72nd recovery of a first stage Falcon 9 rocket booster
To date, 953 Starlink satellites have been launched, while 60 have deorbited, taking the current total in the fleet to around 893.
However, astronomers have raised concerns about the brightness of the Starlink satellites in the night sky, which can obscure other objects.
In a recent study,