SpaceX has launched another batch of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit.
The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth for a vertical landing about 8.5 minutes after launch. It touched down on the droneship "Of Course I Still Love You," which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast.
It was the 13th launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description. Six of its 12 previous flights have been Starlink missions.
Friday morning's launch was the 91st orbital mission of 2023 for SpaceX, extending the company's single-year record. The previous mark, 61 launches, was set in 2022.
The majority of SpaceX rocket launches in 2023 were used to add to the ever-growing Starlink satellite megaconstellation, which currently consists of more than 5,000 operational spacecraft. And that number will continue to rise for a few years at least; SpaceX already has regulatory approval to launch a total 12,000 Starlink craft and has applied to loft an additional 30,000.
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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.