SpaceX launched new batch of its Starlink broadband satellites to orbit early Sunday morning (May 14) and landed a rocket at sea in the company's latest successful mission.
A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 56 Starlink spacecraft lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida Sunday at 1:03 a.m. EDT (0503 GMT).
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The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth 8.5 minutes after liftoff, landing on the SpaceX droneship Just Read the Instructions, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. It will marked the 11th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.
The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, carried the 56 Starlink satellites to l ow Earth orbit. All 56 are scheduled to be deployed about 65 minutes after launch.
SpaceX has now launched nearly 4,400 satellites for Starlink, the company's huge and ever-growing broadband megaconstellation. More of than 4,000 of those spacecraft are currently active, according to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
Sunday morning's launch was the 29th Falcon 9 flight of the year and the 31st orbital mission overall for SpaceX in 2023. The other two orbital flights were launched by SpaceX's powerful Falcon Heavy rocket.
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.