SpaceX Falcon 9 launches 21 Starlink satellites from California

Update 4:40 a.m. EDT (0840 UTC): Falcon 9 launched

Nine Merlin 1D engines power a Falcon 9 carrying 21 Starlink satellites to orbit. Image: SpaceX.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off with 21 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California at 1:23 a.m. PDT (4:23 a.m. EDT, 0823 UTC). It was the first of two Starlink delivery missions planned for Saturday.

The Falcon 9 set off on a south-easterly trajectory after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E). It was SpaceX’s 22nd mission from the West Coast this year and its 75th orbital launch of 2023 overall.

The first stage booster was making its 16th flight. It previously launched the Crew-1, Crew-2, SXM-8, CRS-23, IXPE, Transporter-4, Transporter-5, Globalstar FM15 and ISI EROS C-3 missions, plus six Starlink delivery flights. After completing its main burn, lasting about two and a half minutes, the first stage continued downrange to land on the drone ship ‘Of Course I still Love You’ stationed about 400 miles downrange (644km) in the Pacific Ocean offshore of Baja California.

Deployment of the 21 V2 Mini Starlink satellites occured just over an hour after launch. The V2 Mini model is much larger than the previous V1.5 satellites. Equipped with upgraded antennae and larger solar panels, these next generation spacecraft can delivery four times the bandwidth of the previous satellites. This is the 28th launch of the V2 Minis since they were introduced in February this year.

SpaceX’s Starlink V2 Mini satellites pictured earlier this year in a payload processing facility at Cape Canaveral. Credit: SpaceX

A second Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch on Saturday, this one from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Liftoff is scheduled for 10:17 p.m. EDT (0217 UTC) with 23 Starlinks aboard, the most V2 Mini satellites to be carried aloft on single mission.