SpaceX launches another 52 Starlink satellites, lands rocket at sea

SpaceX launched another 52 of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit Saturday evening (Sept. 24) and also aced a rocket landing at sea.

A Falcon 9 rocket topped with 52 Starlink spacecraft lifted off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Saturday at 7:32 p.m. EDT (2332 GMT). 

Just under nine minutes later, the Falcon 9's first stage came back to Earth for a pinpoint touchdown on the SpaceX "droneship" A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the fourth liftoff and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab).

Related: SpaceX's Starlink megaconstellation launches in photos

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 52 Starlink internet satellites from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Sept. 24, 2022.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches 52 Starlink internet satellites from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Sept. 24, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The Falcon 9's upper stage deployed the 52 Starlinks 15.5 minutes after liftoff as planned, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter (opens in new tab).

Saturday's launch continues the buildout of SpaceX's Starlink megaconstellation, which provides internet service for people around the world. The company has now lofted nearly 3,400 Starlink satellites and plans to launch thousands more.

Starting next year, SpaceX will begin launching Starlink Version 2 satellites, which will be much bigger and more capable than the current iteration. V2 spacecraft will be able to beam connectivity directly to smartphones, and will do so for T-Mobile customers via a project called "Coverage Above and Beyond," SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk announced last month.

SpaceX plans to launch Starlink V2 batches aboard its huge, next-generation Starship vehicle, which will also take cargo and people to the moon and Mars, if all goes according to plan. Starship's first orbital test flight is "highly likely" to occur in November, Musk said recently.

Saturday's launch was SpaceX's 43rd orbital mission of 2022, adding to the company's single-year liftoff record. SpaceX's previous high for launches in a year was 31, achieved in 2021.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 7:55 p.m. EDT on Sept. 24 with news of successful launch, rocket landing and satellite deploy.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com (opens in new tab) 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.