SpaceX rocket launches Starlink satellites on record-breaking 17th flight (video)

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket just set a reuse record.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Tuesday at 11:38 p.m. EDT (0338 GMT Sept. 20), carrying 22 of SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites toward low Earth orbit (LEO).

The rocket's first stage came back to Earth 8.5 minutes after launch, landing on a SpaceX drone ship stationed at sea.

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

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 22 Starlink satellites on Sept. 19, 2023. It was the record-setting 17th launch for this rocket's first stage. (Image credit: SpaceX)

It was the 17th liftoff and landing for this Falcon 9's first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description. Those figures are unprecedented; the previous mark was 16, held by two different Falcon 9 boosters.

The 22 Starlink satellites, meanwhile, deployed from the Falcon 9's upper stage 62.5 minutes after launch as planned.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rests on the deck of a drone ship shortly after launching 22 Starlink satellites on Sept. 19, 2023.  (Image credit: SpaceX)

Tuesday night's liftoff extended another record as well: It was SpaceX's 65th orbital mission of the year. The company's previous mark, 61, was set in 2022.

Most of this year's SpaceX launches have been dedicated to building out the Starlink megaconstellation, which currently consists of more than 4,700 operational satellites. That number should continue growing for quite some time, as SpaceX has permission to loft 12,000 Starlink craft and has applied for approval for an additional 30,000.

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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.