SpaceX launches Starlink satellites on 75th orbital mission of 2023

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 21 Starlink internet satellites to orbit from California early Saturday morning (Oct. 21).

The Falcon 9 lifted off from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on Saturday at 4:23 a.m. EDT (0823 GMT; 1:23 a.m. local California time). 

The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth safely as planned, touching down at sea on the SpaceX drone ship 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 comes down for a droneship landing shortly after launching 21 Starlink satellites on Oct. 21, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

It was the 16th flight for this particular rocket's first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description.  That's one shy of the company's reuse record, which was set last month.

The 21 Starlink satellites, meanwhile, deployed on schedule from the Falcon 9's upper stage about 62.5 minutes after launch, SpaceX confirmed in a post on X (formerly known as Twitter).

The liftoff was the 75th orbital mission for SpaceX in 2023. The company is aiming for 100 flights by the end of this year and 144 in 2024

About 60% of this year's flights have been dedicated to building out Starlink, SpaceX's internet megaconstellation. Starlink currently consists of nearly 4,900 operational satellites, and that number will continue to grow far into the future.

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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.