SpaceX launched another big batch of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit today (Aug. 19) and also aced a rocket landing at sea.
About nine minutes into the mission, the Falcon 9‘s first stage came back to Earth for a vertical touchdown on the SpaceX droneship A Shortfall of Gravitas, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
It was the ninth launch and landing for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab).
The rocket’s upper stage, meanwhile, continued its way upward, eventually deploying the 53 satellites into low Earth orbit as planned a little over 15 minutes after launch, SpaceX confirmed via Twitter (opens in new tab).
SpaceX has already launched more than 3,000 spacecraft for its Starlink constellation, which beams broadband service to customers around the globe.
Many of those satellites have gone up this year. SpaceX has now performed 37 orbital launches in 2022 so far, 23 of them dedicated Starlink missions. That’s a record-breaking launch cadence; the company’s previous mark for most orbital missions in a year was 31, set in 2021.
Today’s Starlink launch occurred just a few hours after one of SpaceX’s robotic Dragon cargo capsules departed the International Space Station. The Dragon is expected to return to Earth with an ocean splashdown tomorrow afternoon (Aug. 20).
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3: 55 p.m. ET on Aug. 19 with news of successful liftoff, 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).
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.