SpaceX launches Starlink satellites on company's 40th mission of 2024 (video)

SpaceX launched its 40th mission of the year this evening (April 18).

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying 23 of the company's Starlink internet satellites lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida today at 6:40 p.m. EDT (2240 GMT).

The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth about 8.5 minutes after launch as planned, making a vertical landing on the SpaceX droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

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

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 23 Starlink satellites from Florida on April 18, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

It was the seventh launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description. Two of the rocket's previous six flights sent astronauts to the International Space Station — the private Ax-2 and Ax-3 missions, which launched in May 2023 and January of this year, respectively. 

The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, will continue hauling the 23 Starlink satellites toward low Earth orbit this evening, ultimately deploying them there about 65 minutes after liftoff.

Twenty-seven of the 40 orbital missions that SpaceX has launched so far in 2024 have been devoted to building out the Starlink megaconstellation. That network is already huge: It currently consists of more than 5,760 operational satellites, according to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The 40-launch tally does not include the March 14 liftoff of SpaceX's Starship megarocket, which the company is developing to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond. Starship reached orbital velocity during that mission, which was the vehicle's third test flight overall. 

Editor's note: This story was updated at 7:26 pm ET on April 18 with news of successful launch and rocket landing.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with 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.