SpaceX launches 52 Starlink satellites, lands rocket on ship in Pacific

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SpaceX lofted 52 more of its Starlink internet satellites to orbit Wednesday evening (Oct. 5), just hours after launching astronauts toward the International Space Station for NASA.

The Starlink satellites lifted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. EDT (2310 GMT; 4:10 p.m. local California time).

The Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth and made a pinpoint landing 8.5 minutes after launch on the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

Related: SpaceX’s Starlink megaconstellation launches in photos

It was the fifth liftoff and landing for this particular booster, according to a SpaceX mission description (opens in new tab). The rocket previously helped launch the NROL-85 and NROL-87 missions for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, the Sarah-1 radar satellite for the German government, and another Starlink batch.

While the Falcon 9 first stage came in for its landing, the upper stage continued powering its way to orbit. The 52 Starlink satellites will be deployed about 62 minutes after liftoff, if all goes according to plan.

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Starlink is SpaceX’s ever-growing megaconstellation that beams internet service to customers around the world. SpaceX has already lofted more than 3,400 Starlink satellites to date and plans to orbit many more: The company has approval to launch 12,000 of the spacecraft and has applied for permission for up to 30,000 on top of that.

This evening’s launch was SpaceX’s 45th of 2022 and second of the day, after the Crew-5 astronaut mission for NASA, which lifted off at noon EDT (1600 GMT) from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 

The four-person Crew-5 is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station Thursday (Oct. 6) at 4:57 p.m. EDT (2057 GMT); you can watch that live here at when the time comes.

SpaceX also plans to launch another mission on Thursday, sending two commercial communications satellites aloft from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 4:07 p.m. EDT (2007 GMT). You can watch that live here at as well. 

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 7:35 p.m. EDT on Wednesday with news of successful launch and rocket landing.

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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