SpaceX launches its 90th orbital mission of the year (video)

SpaceX launched yet another batch of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit early Thursday morning (Dec. 7).

A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 23 Starlink spacecraft lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 12:07 a.m. EST (0507 GMT), on SpaceX's 90th orbital mission of 2023. 

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

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with 23 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with 23 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

As to plan, the rocket's first stage came back to Earth for a vertical landing about 8.5 minutes after launch. It touched down on the SpaceX droneship "Just Read the Instructions," which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.

It was the ninth launch and landing for this particular booster, according to the mission description.  

The 23 Starlink satellites, meanwhile, were set to deploy from the Falcon 9's upper stage into low Earth orbit about 65 minutes after liftoff.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket's first stage approaches a landing on the droneship "Just Read the Instructions" off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket's first stage approaches a landing on the droneship "Just Read the Instructions" off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)
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Starlink is SpaceX's huge and ever-growing broadband megaconstellation, which beams internet service down to people around the world. The network currently consists of more than 5,100 active satellites, according to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

SpaceX extends its flight-cadence record with every liftoff these days. The company's previous annual mark, 61 launches, was set last year. But we should expect even more spaceflight action next year: SpaceX representatives have said they're shooting for 144 launches in 2024.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com 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.