SpaceX launches 21 Starlink satellites into orbit from California in sunset liftoff (photos, video)

SpaceX successfully launched 21 more of its Starlink broadband satellites on late Saturday (April 6) from seaside base in California.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SpaceX Starlink spacecraft — including six that can beam service directly to cell phones — lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base, on California's central coast, Saturday at 10:25 p.m. EDT (7:25 p.m. local California time; 0225 GMT on April 7). 

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

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at sunset carrying 22 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on April 6, 2024.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at sunset carrying 22 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California on April 6, 2024.  (Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth for a vertical landing about eight minutes after liftoff, if all goes according to plan. It touched down on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

It will be the sixth launch and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description.

The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, will continue hauling the 21 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO), deploying them there 62.5 minutes after liftoff.

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lands safely on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean after launching 21 satellites into orbit from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on April 6, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Two-thirds of the 33 orbital missions that SpaceX has launched so far in 2024 have been devoted to building out its Starlink megaconstellation, which currently consists of more than 5,650 operational satellites in LEO. 

Tonight's liftoff was the second Starlink launch in two days, if all goes to plan: SpaceX launched 23 of the broadband craft early Friday morning (April 5) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

SpaceX had been planning to launch the 21 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg on Friday night but canceled that attempt due to bad weather.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 10:45 p.m. ET on April 6 with news of the new successful launch.

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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.