SpaceX launches 21 new Starlink satellites on Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX launched another batch of its Starlink internet satellites early Tuesday (Sept. 12) and landed the returning rocket on a ship at sea.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 21 Starlink craft from California's foggy Vandenberg Space Force Base on Tuesday at 2:57 a.m. EDT (0657 GMT; 11:57 p.m. Sept. 11 local California time). 

The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth as planned for a landing in the Pacific Ocean, on the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, about 8.5 minutes after launch. 

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

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rests on the deck of a drone ship shortly after landing on Sept. 12, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

This was the 11th launch and landing for this first-stage booster, according to the SpaceX mission description on the company's website.

The Falcon 9's upper stage is scheduled to deploy the Starlink satellites about 62 minutes after liftoff.

Tuesday morning's launch was the 64th of 2023 for SpaceX, which is blowing past the record it set last year with 61 launches. 

SpaceX is outpacing the rest of the world in space missions this year, with the majority of its launches supporting the company's Starlink megaconstellation. 

The total number of operational Starlink satellites in orbit currently exceeds 4,600, according to astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, who tracks the constellation on his website, and SpaceX hopes to increase the number to as many as 42,000 over the long haul.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:15 a.m. ET on Sept. 12 with news of successful launch and rocket landing.

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Josh Dinner
Writer, Content Manager

Josh Dinner is's Content Manager. He is a writer and photographer with a passion for science and space exploration, and has been working the space beat since 2016. Josh has covered the evolution of NASA's commercial spaceflight partnerships, from early Dragon and Cygnus cargo missions to the ongoing development and launches of crewed missions from the Space Coast, as well as NASA science missions and more. He also enjoys building 1:144 scale models of rockets and human-flown spacecraft. Find some of Josh's launch photography on Instagram and his website, and follow him on Twitter, where he mostly posts in haiku.