Falcon 9 rocket.
A Falcon 9 rocket stands ready to carry 51 Starlink satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Space Force Base in late October. Another batch of Starlink satellites awaits liftoff as the first mission of 2023 from the West Coast. Credit: SpaceX photo

A Starlink mission carrying 51 satellites will ring in the new launch year at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket, built by Space Exploration Technologies, will target Monday night from Space Launch Complex-4 on the South Base. 

The instantaneous launch opportunity will be at 8:15 p.m. Monday, with a backup opportunity set for 8:02 p.m. Tuesday, SpaceX said Saturday. 

The satellites’ placement in space determines the planned time for rocket launches.

Boaters were advised to remain out of the ocean area off the South Base from approximately 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday. Likewise, pilots were advised of a space launch at Vandenberg between 7:50 p.m. and 10:27 p.m. Monday. 

Rocket launches can be delayed because of technical troubles or unfavorable weather.

The 229-foot-tall rocket will place another set of Starlink satellites in orbit. 

Deployment of the 51 satellites will begin 29 minutes after liftoff, according to SpaceX.

Starlink, a SpaceX-led business, involves thousands of satellites to create a constellation to deliver Internet access to remote areas of the planet and places where the service isn’t reliable. 

So far, SpaceX has placed 3,666 satellites into orbit, but only 3,107 spacecraft were operational as of Friday, according to an online tally by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and author/editor of a newsletter detailing satellite launches.

Eight minutes after liftoff, SpaceX intends to land the spent first-stage booster on a droneship, dubbed “Of Course I Still Love You,” positioned in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles south of the Central Coast.

That means local residents won’t heard the sonic booms that typically accompany a return to Vandenberg. 

SpaceX rocket launches and landings typically attract onlookers to the Lompoc Valley. 

Vandenberg has restricted access, but several locations around the Lompoc Valley provide views of the launch and landing sites, which are 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 launch time on the SpaceX website or its YouTube channel. 

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.