SpaceX 52 launched over its Starlink broadband satellite early Wednesday (May 31) and landed the return rocket on a ship at sea.
A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 52 Starlink spacecraft lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Wednesday at 2:02 a.m. EDT (0602 GMT; 11:02 p.m. May 30 local time, CA).
The Falcon 9 first stage returned to Earth as planned about 8 minutes and 45 seconds after its launch on Wednesday. It landed vertically on SpaceX’s Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
Related: Starlink Satellite Train: How to see in the night sky
This was the fourteenth launch and landing of this particular booster, according to A SpaceX mission description. Among its previous 13 flights were Crew-1 and Crew-2, astronaut missions that SpaceX has flown to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA.
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 upper stage continued to pull 52 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. He deployed them all about 17.5 minutes after launch as planned, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter.
SpaceX has now launched more than 4,500 Starlink satellites, more than 4,100 of which are currently active. According to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
But many more will climb in the coming weeks and months. The company already has permission to send 12,000 Starlink satellites into orbit, and has applied for approval to launch 30,000 satellites on top of that.
Wednesday’s launch of Starlink came just hours after the SpaceX Dragon capsule returned to Earth. That spacecraft, called Freedom, ferried the astronauts’ private mission Ax-2 to Axiom Space Corporation’s space station in Houston. Freedom separated from the International Space Station on Tuesday morning (May 30) and splashed off the coast of Florida 12 hours later, at 11:04 p.m. EDT (0304 GMT on May 31).
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:20 a.m. ET on May 31 with news of the successful launch and missile landing, and then again at 2:38 a.m. ET with news of the satellite deployment.
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