The first launch of 2022 will be a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center LC-39a with the next group of Starlink internet satellites.
The launch Thursday is targeted for 4:49pm EST with a backup time available at 6:47pm EST
In a change from previous Starlink missions, the Falcon 9 rocket will fly southeast from the coast of Florida on a course just north of the Bahamas to place the new batch of internet satellites into low Earth orbit a few hundred miles above Earth.
SpaceX’s previous launches carrying Starlink satellites to a similar orbit have flown northeast from Florida’s Space Coast. Launches to the southeast must fly around the Bahamas to avoid the risk of dropping debris on populated islands.
SpaceX plans to land the Falcon 9’s first stage booster on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” positioned in the Atlantic. The autonomous drone ship left Port Canaveral on Saturday to head for the recovery zone.
Meanwhile, crews at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station are preparing another Falcon 9 rocket for liftoff no earlier than Jan. 13 with dozens of small satellites from numerous customers. That mission, known as Transporter 3, is SpaceX’s third dedicated rideshare launch hauling smallsats into a sun-synchronous orbit.
Liftoff time Jan. 13 is set for 10:25am EST, and SpaceX is expected to land the first stage on an onshore pad at Cape Canaveral.