SpaceX will launch two new Earth-observing satellites for NASA and five commercial communications satellites today (May 22) in a sort of carpool mission to space. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will tote two satellites that are part of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, as well as five more Iridium Next communications satellites, when it takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 3:47 p.m. EDT (1947 GMT).
You can watch the launch live at NASA TV, starting at 3:15 p.m. EDT (1915 GMT), courtesy of a NASA TV webcast.
The Falcon 9 rocket booster that will take the seven satellites to the stars is the same one that launched the U.S. Air Force’s classified Zuma mission in January, a mission that was lost, although SpaceX is reportedly not to blame.
The satellites for the GRACE Follow-On mission, a joint project between NASA and the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, will map changes in Earth’s rising sea levels and the melting of polar ice caps through a unique two-satellite system that detects changes in Earth’s gravity. GRACE Follow-On will spend the next five years mapping Earth’s gravity to study the effects of climate change around the world. Whether or not it convinces certain world leaders that climate change is real is still TBD.
The Iridium Next satellites are less interesting: They will join the 50 Iridium Next satellites already floating in space that, according to Space.com, will eventually make up part of the 75-satellite communications constellation.