SpaceX launched 22 of its "V2 mini" Starlink broadband satellites to orbit early Friday morning (May 19) and landed the returning rocket at sea.
A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 22 next-generation Starlink spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Friday at 2:19 a.m. EDT (0619 GMT).
The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth as planned about 8.5 minutes after liftoff. It touched down on the SpaceX droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
Related: Starlink satellite train: How to see it in the night sky
It was the 5th launch and landing for this particular booster, SpaceX said in a mission description.
The rocket's upper stage, meanwhile, continued carrying the 22 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. They're scheduled to be deployed about 65 minutes after launch.
Starlink is SpaceX's huge and ever-growing constellation of broadband spacecraft. The country has already launched more than 4,400 Starlink satellites but could end up deploying nearly 10 times that many, if the required approvals come through.
The satellites that went up Friday morning are "V2 minis," which are larger and more capable than the first-generation Starlink craft that make up the vast majority of the megaconstellation. The full-size Starlink V2 satellites, which will be even bigger and more powerful, will be launched by SpaceX's huge Starship rocket, which is still in development.
Friday's launch was the 30th Falcon 9 flight of the year and the 32nd orbital mission overall for SpaceX in 2023. (Elon Musk's company has also launched its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket twice this year.)
The Starlink mission is the first of a planned Friday morning doubleheader for SpaceX. The company aims to launch 16 satellites for OneWeb and five communications craft for Iridium on Friday at 9:19 a.m. EDT (1319 GMT) atop a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
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.