A Falcon booster carrying 52 Starlink satellites launches into space Friday from Vandenberg Space Force Base. Credit: Len Wood / Noozhawk photo

Taking advantage of a break in California’s unusually stormy weather, a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off Friday afternoon from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

The Space Exploration Technologies rocket departed at 12:26 p.m. from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base.

Some 52 Starlink satellites sat tucked into the rocket’s payload fairing for delivery into space. 

Deployment occurred as planned 15 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX officials confirmed.

A thin layer of clouds spoiled the view for some in the Santa Maria and Lompoc valleys, but a long rumble shook windows to help punctuate the liftoff.

On-board cameras delivered amazing views of Earth as the rocket climbed away from the Central Coast.

Minutes after blastoff, the first-stage, flying for its eighth time, safely touched down on the droneship, dubbed Of Course I Still Love You, positioned in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles away from Vandenberg. 

Friday marked the fifth flight for the two segments of the payload fairing, or nose cone, which SpaceX aimed to recover for reuse on future missions. 

Recovery of the key components helps SpaceX trim the cost of delivering payloads into space and reduce the time between missions. 

This marked the 179th overall landing for the SpaceX rockets. 

Starlink, designed, built and delivered by SpaceX, has started providing internet service to remote and rural areas where land-based systems aren’t available or reliable.

SpaceX says more than 20% of the United States land area and 90% of the Earth remain uncovered by traditional wireless companies. 

Starlink now provides high-speed internet service to more than 1 million customers, including several in Santa Barbara County.

So far, SpaceX has launched more than 4,000 Starlink satellites into space, with plans to expand to 13,000.

Friday’s Starlink mission marked SpaceX’s 18th launch this year — five of those occurred from Vandenberg. 

The Vandenberg rocket will have to share the attention with a sibling on the East Coast where another Falcon 9 rocket will deliver pair of international communications satellites into orbit Friday from Florida.

A stylized hawk's head on a red background

Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.