Update August 6th, 7:35PM ET: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 successfully took off from Cape Canaveral Florida at 7:23PM ET on August 6th. The rocket is carrying an Israeli communication satellite called AMOS-17, built and operated by Spacecom. Earlier in the afternoon, the Ariane 5 rocket, operated by Arianespace, took off at approximately 3:30PM ET from the company’s French Guiana spaceport carrying a pair of communications satellites, one from Intelsat and another from European Space Agency and Airbus.
Original story: This afternoon, two rockets will take off just hours apart from North and South America, giving space fans a back-to-back show of launch live streams. First up is the European Ariane 5 rocket, which is set to lift off from French Guiana in South America, followed by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket about three hours later from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Both rockets are heading eastward over the Atlantic Ocean to deposit satellites high above the Earth’s equator.
Here’s what to expect for each mission and how you can watch both vehicles launch live:
The Ariane 5, operated by European launch provider Arianespace, is scheduled to take off sometime between 3:30PM ET and 5:51PM ET from the company’s French Guiana spaceport. The rocket is tasked with carrying a pair of communications satellites — one for the company Intelsat and another for the European Space Agency and Airbus.
The first satellite, the Intelsat 39, will replace an already active Intelsat satellite that launched in 2001. The spacecraft is meant to provide connectivity over Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The second satellite is the EDRS-C, made through a public-private partnership with ESA and Airbus. EDRS-C will be the second spacecraft in the so-called SpaceDataHighway, a planned constellation of satellites positioned over the equator that can connect with lower altitude satellites, drones, and aircraft. Using new laser technology, the SpaceDataHighway will be able to quickly relay data gathered from these lower-flying vehicles to the ground in near-real time.
This is the first launch for Arianespace after its last mission on a different rocket failed to reach orbit in July. The company’s Vega rocket suffered some unknown issue just two minutes into flight, right after the vehicle had ignited its second engine. As a result, it fell out of the sky. It’s still unknown what caused that issue, but today’s launch involves a very different vehicle and is ready to move ahead.
Arianespace’s coverage will begin around 2:45PM ET, and you can watch the live stream above.
At 6:53PM ET, the launch window opens for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which is taking off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company has up until 8:21PM ET to get the vehicle off the ground, though.
SpaceX is employing another one of its used rockets for this mission — a Falcon 9 that’s flown twice before in July and November 2018. However, this is the last time this rocket will see space. This launch is a rare “expendable” mission for SpaceX, meaning the Falcon 9 will not be landing after takeoff and will fall into the ocean.
The Falcon 9’s payload is an Israeli communication satellite called AMOS-17, which is meant to provide connectivity services to Africa. The payload is operated by Spacecom, which also built the AMOS-6 satellite. That spacecraft was destroyed in September 2016 while mounted on top of a Falcon 9 rocket that exploded in preparation for a launchpad test. After the explosion, SpaceX offered Spacecom either $50 million in compensation or a free launch on a future Falcon 9. Spacecom took the latter option, and today’s AMOS-17 launch is the result.
SpaceX’s coverage is set to begin about 15 minutes before liftoff, and you can follow the company’s Twitter account for updates.