The number of Starlink satellites in space will grow yet again with a Falcon 9 rocket launch planned for Friday from Vandenberg Space Force Base.
In its first of two missions from both sides of country planned for Friday, Space Exploration Technologies is aiming for a 12:26 p.m. launch of its two-stage Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base.
If needed, there is an additional launch opportunity the same day at 4:24 p.m. for the Vandenberg rocket.
Backup opportunities are also available at 12:12 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. Saturday.
Late Thursday afternoon, SpaceX tweaked the planned launch times a few minutes for each opportunity.
The rocket will carry 52 Starlink satellites for the ongoing effort to create a space-based system to provide internet access anywhere on the planet.
Deployment of the satellites will occur approximately 15 minutes after launch.
The first stage booster supporting this mission previously launched a pair of spy satellite missions, a German craft, a NASA mission and three other batches of Starlink satellites from Vandenberg.
After completing its chores, the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster will land on the drone ship, dubbed Of Course I Still Love You, stationed in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles south of the Central Coast.
The West Coast launch may be the first of two for SpaceX on Friday.
Another Falcon 9 rocket is slated to deliver the SES-18 and SES-19 communications satellites to a geosynchronous transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The 38-minute window for that mission opens at 4:38 p.m. PDT.
So far this year, SpaceX has launched four Falcon 9 rocket missions from Vandenberg. The base also has been the site for a missile test launch.
During the State of VSFB presentation on Wednesday at the base, Col. Robert Long, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, said he expected the next year and beyond to be bright and busy at the base.
Vandenberg could see its busiest launch year, with as many as 40 to 45 liftoffs in 2023. Last year’s 19 liftoffs signaled the busiest at the base in 26 years.
For those hoping to see the Vandenberg Falcon rocket launch, the base has restricted access, but several locations around the Lompoc Valley provide views of the launch site, which is south of West Ocean Avenue/Highway 246.
The locations include west of Lompoc, the peak of Harris Grade Road, and near the intersection of Moonglow and Stardust roads.
Providence Landing Park, at 699 Mercury Ave. in Vandenberg Village, also is a popular gathering spot along with West Ocean Avenue west of the Lompoc’s city limits.
A live broadcast of the mission can be found about five minutes before the planned launch time on the SpaceX website or its YouTube channel.