SpaceX launched another big batch of its Starlink internet satellites and landed the returning rocket at sea early Thursday morning (May 4).
The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth about 8.5 minutes after liftoff, touching down on SpaceX's A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
It was the seventh launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.
The Falcon 9's upper stage continued powering its way upward Thursday. It will deploy the 56 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit a little less than 65 minutes after liftoff, if all goes according to plan.
Starlink is SpaceX's huge and ever-growing constellation of broadband satellites. The company has now launched more than 4,300 Starlink spacecraft to date, the vast majority of which are currently functional, according to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell, who keeps tabs on such things.
Thursday's launch was the 29th orbital mission of the year for SpaceX and the 27th for a Falcon 9. The other two SpaceX orbital flights this year have involved the company's burly Falcon Heavy rocket.
The above numbers don't include SpaceX's highest-profile launch of the year — the April 20 test flight of Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built. That mission wasn't designed to reach orbit, and it didn't, ending with a commanded destruction of Starship about four minutes after liftoff.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:40 a.m. ET on May 4 with news of successful launch and rocket landing.
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 @Spacedotcom, or on Facebook and Instagram.