SpaceX launches 20 Starlink satellites on 50th mission of the year (video)

SpaceX launched 20 of its Starlink internet satellites today (May 14), on the company's 50th orbital mission of 2024.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Starlink spacecraft — 13 of which feature direct-to-cell capability — lifted off from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base today at 2:39 p.m. EDT (1839 GMT; 11:39 a.m. local California time). 

The Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth today about 8.5 minutes after launch as planned, making a vertical touchdown on the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

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

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 20 Starlink satellites from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on May 14, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

It was the 18th launch and landing for this particular first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description. That's two shy of the company's reuse record, which is held by three different boosters.

The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, will carry the 20 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, where they'll be deployed about 61 minutes after liftoff.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rests on the deck of a drone ship shortly after launching 20 Starlink satellites from California's Vandenberg Space Force Base on May 14, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Thirty-five of SpaceX's 50 orbital launches this year to date have been dedicated to building out the Starlink megaconstellation, which currently consists of more than 5,900 working satellites.

That 2024 launch tally does not include the third test flight of SpaceX's Starship megarocket, which occurred on March 14. SpaceX is currently gearing up for Starship's fourth test mission, which could take place in three to five weeks, according to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 2:50 p.m. ET on May 14 with news of successful launch and rocket landing.

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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.