SpaceX launched another large batch of its Starlink internet satellites into orbit and the returner rocket landed on a ship at sea today (March 29).
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket dotted with 56 Starlink satellites lifted off today at 4:01 PM EST (2001 GMT).
The Falcon 9 first stage returned to Earth as planned, hitting a vertical descent aboard a SpaceX jet, just read the instructions about 8.5 minutes after launch.
Related: SpaceX’s massive Starlink satellite is being launched in pictures
This was the fourth launch and landing of this particular booster, SpaceX Written in the task description (Opens in a new tab).
Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 upper stage continued to pull Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO). All 56 satellites are scheduled to deploy 65 minutes after liftoff.
Today’s launch was SpaceX’s 21st in 2023 and the 11th day this year is primarily dedicated to building the company’s Starlink broadband constellation.
SpaceX has now orbited more than 4,200 Starlink satellites overall, According to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell (Opens in a new tab).
These numbers will continue to grow far into the future; Elon Musk’s company has permission to deploy 12,000 Starlink satellites in LEO and has applied for permission to acquire another 30,000 satellites on top of that.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:20 PM EST March 29 with news of the successful launch and rocket landing.
Mike Wall is the author of “outside (Opens in a new tab)Book (Major Grand Publishers, 2018; illustration by Carl Tate), a book about the search for aliens. Follow him on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @employee (Opens in a new tab) or on Facebook (Opens in a new tab).