SpaceX has pulled off yet another rocket launch and landing.
A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carrying 53 Starlink spacecraft lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Friday (May 13) at 6:07 pm EDT (2207 GMT; 3:07 pm local California time). Less than nine minutes later, the Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth for a pinpoint landing on the SpaceX droneship “Of Course I Still Love You,” which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California.
It was the fifth launch and landing for this Falcon first stage — impressive, but far from a SpaceX record: Three different Falcon 9 boosters have a whopping 12 missions under their belts. SpaceX has now safely landed Falcon 9 boosters a total of 112 times.
Related: SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation launches in photos
The 53 Starlink satellites were deployed into low Earth orbit about an hour after liftoff as planned, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter on Friday.
SpaceX has now launched more than 2,500 Starlink satellites to date, a decent chunk of them recently; 12 of the company’s 19 spaceflights in 2022 so far have been dedicated Starlink missions. And SpaceX plans to launch another Starlink batch on Saturday (May 14) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Such launches will likely be part of our lives for a long time to come. SpaceX plans to keep building the Starlink network, perhaps to truly staggering proportions; the next-generation version of the constellation could eventually consist of up to 30,000 satellites.
The current version of Starlink is quite functional, providing internet service to people in locations around the world.
Among its service areas is Ukraine. SpaceX has shipped thousands of Starlink terminals to the country to help it maintain its communications infrastructure, which has been damaged by the ongoing Russian invasion of that country.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:30 pm EDT on May 13 with news of the successful launch and Falcon 9 first stage landing, then again at 8:25 pm EDT to state that the satellites had deployed.
Mike Wall is the author of “out there” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.