SpaceX Falcon 9 launches Starlink satellites from California

Updated 6 a.m. EDT (1000 UTC): Adding successful Satellite deployment.

Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on the Starlink 7-3 mission. Image: SpaceX.

SpaceX launched its 42nd Starlink delivery mission of the year with a Falcon 9 lifting off from the West Coast carrying a batch of 21 satellites at 1:48 a.m. PDT (4:48 a.m. EDT / 0848 UTC) Monday morning.

The Falcon 9 headed in a south-easterly direction from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California targeting a 185×178 mile (297×286 km) orbit, inclined at 53 degrees to the equator.

The first stage booster, making its sixth flight, previously launched the first Tranche 0 mission for the U.S. military’s Space Development Agency and flew four previous Starlink delivery missions. After completing its burn, the first stage landed on the drone ship ‘Of Course I still Love You’ stationed about 400 miles downrange (644km) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Falcon 9 booster 1075 after touching down on the drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’. Image: SpaceX.

Deployment of the 21 V2 Mini Starlink satellites occurred just over an hour after launch. The V2 Mini model was introduced earlier this year and is much larger than the V1.5 satellites. Equipped with upgraded antennae and larger solar panels, the latest models can deliver four times the bandwidth of the previous satellites.

SpaceX recently announced it had signed up over two million subscribers in more than 60 countries for its Starlink internet service. Since 2019 it has launched 5,178 satellites according to statistics compiled by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who maintains a space flight database. Of those satellites 4,828 remain in orbit and prior to today’s launch 4,776 appear to be working normally.