After an eventful summer packed with International Space Station missions, tourism spaceflights and government science probes, the space community is kicking off another action-packed season. In particular, October will be a busy month in Earth’s orbit with several satellite missions scheduled to lift off, including the first launch of Amazon (AMZN)’s Project Kuiper.
SpaceX has at least two rocket launches coming up for its commercial clients. And the Elon Musk-led company has a better chance than September to test fly its Starship rocket again. Farther out in space, NASA will send a spacecraft to study a mysterious asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.
This month’s roundup of space missions to watch also coincides with World Space Week, running from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10. The United Nations and the World Space Week Association organize the annual celebration of science and education.
Here are the most exciting space missions to watch in October:
- October 6: Amazon launches the first Kuiper mission. A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket will launch a pair of demonstration satellites for Amazon’s Project Kuiper, a satellite-based broadband internet service similar to SpaceX’s Starlink. Amazon has plans to deploy more than 3,000 satellites in low Earth orbit. The first two Kuiper demo satellites were originally scheduled to be launched by a ULA Vulcan rocket, but that vehicle isn’t ready to fly yet. The mission, called Protoflight, will lift off at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- October 12: NASA launches Psyche mission to study a Sun-orbiting asteroid. A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch NASA’s Psyche asteroid mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission will send a probe to study a unique metal-rich asteroid named Psyche, located between Mars and Jupiter, orbiting the Sun in the main asteroid belt. The asteroid is believed to be part or all of the iron-rich core of an early planet. NASA’s spacecraft with the same name is expected to reach Psyche’s orbit in July 2029 and then spend two years taking pictures, mapping the surface, and collecting data to determine its composition.
- October TBD: SpaceX’s second orbital test flight of Starship. SpaceX is awaiting a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration to test launch its Mars-colonizing Starship rocket. A prototype of the giant spaceship is technically ready to fly and was stacked on its launch pad at SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas facility last month. It was unstacked in mid-September after the FAA said it might issue the launch license sometime in October. Starship’s first orbital test flight took place in April. The rocket took flight for a few minutes before it blew up in the sky.
- October TBD: SpaceX launches Maxar Earth-observing satellites. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a pair of WorldView Legion imaging satellites for Maxar Technologies. Maxar’s satellites have been found useful during natural disasters, including the Tonga volcano eruption in January 2022.
- October TBD: SpaceX launches internet satellites for Luxembourg company. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a pair of O3b mPOWER broadband internet satellites for SES of Luxembourg, a European satellite telecommunications network provider. The satellites, built by Boeing, will provide internet services on SES’s O3b network from medium Earth orbit. SpaceX has launched two satellite missions for SES of Luxembourg this year.