SpaceX Starlink launch grazes the moon in gorgeous photos

rocket in front of the moon
A SpaceX launch bearing Starlink satellites flies in front of the moon on Feb. 12, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's 10th launch of the year was a photogenic one.

Falcon 9 rocket topped with 55 Starlink craft launched flawlessly Sunday at 12:10 a.m. EST (0510) GMT, and SpaceX shared the photos on Twitter.

The moon comes close to photobombing the early morning launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. SpaceX photographers even captured the rocket streaking in front of the nearly full Snow Moon.

About eight minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9's first stage landed as expected on the droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas, available in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles (or kilometers) off the Florida coast.

Related: 10 weird things about SpaceX's Starlink internet satellites

This was the 12th time this particular booster launched and landed, according to a SpaceX mission description. The manifest of previous missions include six other Starlink excursions and two prominent private astronaut flights: The Ax-1 journey to the International Space Station in April 2022 and the Inspiration4 Earth orbit mission in September 2021.

The launch furnished 55 more members of the fast-growing Starlink constellation, which includes more than 3,500 operational satellites so far. SpaceX has permission to include 12,000 Starlink spacecraft altogether and has applied to add 30,000 more.

The Falcon 9 rocket has made nine of the 10 launches of 2023, with one other performed by the powerful Falcon Heavy rocket. It is possible that Starship, a next-generation spaceship that will be tasked with bringing payloads and people to the moon and beyond, will make its first attempt at orbit soon following a huge test engine burn last week, according to CEO Elon Musk.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: