SpaceX launches 22 Starlink satellites on West Coast Falcon 9 flight

A Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on SpaceX’s fourth mission of 2024. Image: SpaceX.

Update 4:20 a.m. EST: Successful launch and landing of the Falcon 9.

SpaceX was finally able to launch its Falcon 9 rocket from California early Sunday morning after a delay caused by high upper-level winds. The launch, carrying 22 Starlink satellites, will add to the more than 5,300 satellites already in orbit.

The rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Sunday, Jan. 14, at 12:59 a.m. PST (3:59 a.m. EST, 0859 UTC). The launch has already been delayed multiple times, as delay from Thursday was also due to poor weather, according to SpaceX.

The first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1061, launched for the 18th time. It previously launched two astronaut flights, two Transporter ride-share missions and seven Starlink flights among seven other missions.

Following liftoff, the booster landed on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ about 8.5 minutes later.

While four launches in two weeks would be an incredible pace for any other launch company, SpaceX’s launch cadence has slowed down a bit at the start of the year since one of its East Coast droneships is still sidelined.

The droneship, ‘Just Read the Instructions,’ has not yet returned to service after B1058 fell over during the recovery process following the launch of the Starlink 6-36 mission in late December.

A Falcon 9 is currently scheduled to make another Starlink delivery mission from Cape Canaveral later on Saturday at 7:52 p.m. EST (0052 UTC). The drone ship ‘A Shortfall of Gravitas’ left Port Canaveral Thursday evening to support that mission.

While SpaceX did not say if Starlink 7-10 is carrying additional satellites that feature direct to cellphone capabilities, the company has been making strides on the testing front. In an update on Wednesday, SpaceX stated that they successfully sent and received text messages via Starlink using the T-Mobile network.

“As the global leader in rocket and satellite launch and manufacturing, SpaceX is uniquely positioned to rapidly scale our Direct to Cell network and will rapidly launch a constellation of hundreds of satellites to enable text service in 2024 and voice, data, and Internet of Things (IoT) services in 2025,” SpaceX said in a statement.

The company is also in the midst of preparing for the first of four planned crewed missions to the International Space Station in 2024. The Ax-3 mission, coordinated by Axiom Space, is set to liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, Jan. 17 at 5:11 p.m. EST (2211 UTC).

Mission stats

This will be the:

  • 11th orbital launch attempt in 2024
  • 4th SpaceX orbital launch in 2024
  • 4th Falcon 9 launch of 2024
  • 2nd launch from SLC-4E in 2024
  • 62nd SpaceX launch from SLC-4E
  • 130th overall launch from SLC-4E
  • 79th overall landing on OCISLY
  • 206th overall droneship landing
  • 263rd SpaceX booster landing