In the early hours of Friday morning (May 19), SpaceX successfully launched 22 “V2 mini” Starlink broadband satellites into orbit and achieved a controlled landing of the rocket at sea.
At 2:19 a.m. EDT (0619 GMT), a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the next-generation Starlink spacecraft took off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
As planned, the Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth approximately 8.5 minutes after liftoff and safely landed on the SpaceX droneship called “A Shortfall of Gravitas,” positioned in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. This marked the fifth launch and landing for this particular booster, as stated by SpaceX.
Meanwhile, the rocket’s upper stage continued its journey, delivering the 22 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit. Deployment of these satellites is scheduled to take place approximately 65 minutes after the launch.
Starlink, SpaceX’s expansive constellation of broadband spacecraft, continues to grow. With over 4,400 Starlink satellites already launched, the company aims to potentially deploy nearly ten times that number pending the necessary approvals.
The satellites launched on Friday morning, known as “V2 minis,” are larger and more advanced than the first-generation Starlink satellites that make up the majority of the megaconstellation. SpaceX plans to launch full-size Starlink V2 satellites, which will be even larger and more powerful, using their Starship rocket, currently under development.
This launch marked the 30th Falcon 9 flight and the 32nd orbital mission for SpaceX in 2023. In addition, SpaceX has conducted two launches this year using its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket.
The Starlink mission was the first of a planned doubleheader for SpaceX on Friday. The company also aimed to launch 16 satellites for OneWeb and five communications satellites for Iridium at 9:19 a.m. EDT (1319 GMT) from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.