SpaceX launches Leap Day Starlink satellites into orbit, lands rocket at sea (video)

SpaceX lofted a new batch of Starlink internet satellites into orbit from Florida's Space Coast today (Feb. 29) in a Leap Day launch that came after the company delayed its first NASA astronaut launch of the year. 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with 23 Starlink satellites lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). 

Related: Starlink satellite train: How to see and track it in the night sky

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 23 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Feb. 29, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX shifted into launch operations for this mission, known as Starlink 6-40, in the wee hours of today after calling off plans to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA on the agency's Crew-8 mission. 

Crew-8 was scheduled to launch just after midnight on Friday (March 1), but SpaceX postponed it to no earlier than Saturday night (March 2) due to rough offshore weather that could pose concerns during launch abort scenarios. 

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rests on the deck of a ship at sea shortly afterl aunching 23 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Feb. 29, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Today's Starlink launch marked the 11th flight for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, which had already helped launch five Starlink missions, four commercial satellite flights and one uncrewed NASA cargo run to the ISS. The booster returned to Earth just over 8 minutes after liftoff today, landing at sea on the drone ship Just Read The Instructions so it can be returned to port for a future flight. 

SpaceX regularly launches Starlink satellites into orbit as it works to build up a massive megaconstellation in low Earth orbit (LEO) to provide global, high-speed internet access directly from space. The company eventually hopes to have up to 42,000 satellites in LEO. The most recent Starlink mission launched on Feb. 25.

The satellites riding on today's mission were SpaceX's Starlink Version 2 Mini satellites.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 11:40 a.m. ET with news of successful launch and rocket landing.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.