SpaceX launched 46 satellites and landed the returning rocket on a ship at sea on Sunday (July 10).
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket topped with 46 of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites lifted off from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base on Sunday at 9:39 p.m. EDT (6:39 p.m. local California time; 0139 GMT on July 11).
About 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth and landed on the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
It was the sixth launch and landing for this Falcon 9 first stage. The booster also helped loft the Earth-observation satellite Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission and three Starlink batches, SpaceX said in a mission description (opens in new tab).
The Falcon 9’s upper stage, meanwhile, deployed the 46 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit 63 minutes after liftoff as planned, SpaceX announced via Twitter (opens in new tab).
Sunday evening’s launch was the 29th orbital mission of the year for SpaceX and the 17th dedicated to Starlink, the company’s huge internet-satellite constellation.
SpaceX has launched more than 2,750 Starlink satellites (opens in new tab) to date, and the number will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. The company already has approval to launch 12,000 Starlink craft, and it has applied to an international regulator for permission to loft up to 30,000 more on top of that.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 9:57 p.m. EDT on July 10 with news of the successful liftoff and rocket landing, then again at 11:00 p.m. EDT with news of satellite deployment.
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).