Early Monday morning, SpaceX successfully launched a batch of Starlink satellites into orbit. The event took place at 3:10 a.m. EDT (0710 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket carried 52 Starlink spacecraft, and this was the first of two planned launches for SpaceX on that day.
After liftoff, the Falcon 9‘s first stage returned to Earth approximately 8.5 minutes later. It performed a precise landing on the SpaceX droneship called A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. This marked the ninth launch and landing for this specific booster, according to SpaceX.
Meanwhile, the rocket’s upper stage continued its journey, carrying the 52 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. They were ultimately deployed approximately 65 minutes after liftoff. Currently, SpaceX has launched over 4,500 Starlink satellites, with around 4,200 of them being operational at the moment, according to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
However, the Starlink megaconstellation is still a work in progress. SpaceX has authorization to deploy 12,000 broadband satellites and has applied for approval to launch an additional 30,000 satellites. This indicates that there is still a long way to go before the project reaches completion.
The early-morning Starlink launch was the first part of a planned Falcon 9 doubleheader on that day. SpaceX had another mission scheduled called the Transporter-8 rideshare mission, which was set to launch at 5:19 p.m. EDT (2119 GMT) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The Transporter-8 mission aimed to send 72 starlink satellites into space for various customers.
Image Source: SpaceX Flickr Database