The first half of SpaceX’s St. Patrick’s Day doubleheader went well.
The company aced its 18th orbital mission of 2023 on Friday (March 17), launching 52 of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit and landing a rocket on a ship at sea.
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the broadband craft lifted off from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base at 3:26 p.m. EDT (1926 GMT; 12:26 p.m. local California time).
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Just under nine minutes later, the Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth for a pinpoint touchdown on the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean. It was the eighth mission for this particular booster, SpaceX wrote in a mission description (opens in new tab).
The rocket’s upper stage, meanwhile, continued hauling the Starlink spacecraft to low Earth orbit, deploying all of them as planned about 15.5 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter (opens in new tab).
The newly launched satellites are joining more than 3,700 operational spacecraft (opens in new tab) in SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation. And that number will continue growing far into the future: SpaceX has approval to deploy 12,000 Starlink satellites and has applied for permission for another 30,000 on top of that.
SpaceX has one more mission on tap today: Another Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch the SES-18 and SES-19 telecommunications satellites to orbit from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 7:38 p.m. EDT (2338 GMT).
You can watch it here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company (opens in new tab). Coverage is expected to begin about 15 minutes before liftoff.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).
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