SpaceX launches direct-to-cell Starlink satellites from California after delay (video)

Update for 4:30 p.m. ET on July 12: The Falcon 9's upper stage suffered a failure during the July 11 launch, and all 20 Starlink satellites will be lost, according to SpaceX. Read our failure story for more information.

SpaceX launched 20 more of its Starlink satellites tonight (July 11), including 13 with direct-to-cell capabilities.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Starlink spacecraft lifted off tonight from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base at 10:35 p.m. EDT (7:35 p.m. local California time; 0235 GMT on July 12). That was one day later than originally planned; SpaceX didn't give a reason for the slip.

The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth as planned; it touched down about eight minutes after launch on the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean. 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rests on the deck of a ship at sea shortly after launching 20 Starlink satellites to orbit from California on July 11, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)

It was the 19th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.  The record for a Falcon 9 first stage is 22 flights, which SpaceX set late last month.

The Falcon 9's upper stage continued hauling the 20 satellites to low Earth orbit tonight, where it will deploy them bout 59 minutes after liftoff. 

SpaceX has now conducted 69 Falcon 9 launches in 2024. Forty-nine of those missions have been devoted to building out the Starlink megaconstellation, which currently consists of more than 6,150 operational satellites.

More than 100 of those spacecraft have direct-to-cell capability, but that number will continue to rise for the foreseeable future, as will the overall Starlink tally. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. ET on July 10 with the target launch date of July 11. It was updated again at 10:50 p.m. ET on July 11 with news of launch and successful rocket landing.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.