SpaceX launches 22 Starlink satellites from California to kick off Sunday rocket doubleheader

SpaceX successfully launched yet another batch of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit in the wee hours this morning (Jan. 14), even as the company plans for its next liftoff later tonight.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying 22 Starlink spacecraft lifted off from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on Sunday (Jan. 14) at 3:59 a.m. EST (0859 GMT; 12:59 a.m. local time in California). The mission was initially scheduled to launch on Jan. 9. Attempts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday were called off due to poor weather conditions.

The launch is the first of two back-to-back launches for SpaceX on Sunday. At 7:27 p.m. EST (0027 GMT), another Falcon 9 rocket will launch 23 more Starlink satellites into orbit from a SpaceX pad at Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

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

A used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launcehs 22 Starlink satellites into orbit from Space Launch Complex 4 East at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California early on Jan. 14, 2023.  (Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9's first stage will come back to Earth about 8.5 minutes after liftoff, touching down on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

It was the 18th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description. That's just one shy of the SpaceX reuse record of 19 flights, which was set last month by a Falcon 9 first stage.

The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, continued hauling the 22 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, where they were to be deployed about 62.5 minutes after liftoff.

Starlink is SpaceX's broadband megaconstellation, which beams service to customers around the world. The network currently consists of more than 5,250 spacecraft, and the number will continue to grow far into the future.

Sunday's mission will be the fourth orbital flight of 2024 for SpaceX, which wants to launch 144 missions this year. The company's current record is 98 liftoffs, which which was set in 2023.

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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.