A Falcon 9 rocket blasts of late Tuesday night from Vandenberg Space Force Base, carrying Starlink satellites into orbit.
A Falcon 9 rocket blasts of late Tuesday night from Vandenberg Space Force Base, carrying Starlink satellites into orbit. Credit: SpaceX photo

A Falcon 9 rocket sporting a first-stage booster making its 14th flight ferried 52 Starlink satellites into space late Tuesday night at Vandenberg Space Force Base while generating a loud rumble

Liftoff occurred at 11:02 p.m. from the SpaceX facility at Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base, with the rumble heard around Santa Barbara County.

However, a persistent marine layer hampered most views of the rocket as it climbed away from the Central Coast.

The first-stage booster landed on the drone ship dubbed Of Course I Still Love You in the Pacific Ocean more than eight minutes after the launch. 

The booster previously carried out an assortment of missions from both Florida and California, including four prior Starlink deliveries.

Tuesday’s mission signaled the 14th launch and landing for the first-stage booster, or the lower two-thirds segment of the rocket.

Recycling the first-stage booster helps SpaceX reduce the time between launches and trim costs for getting payloads into orbit.

Deployment of the 52 Starlink satellites took place 17 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX confirmed

Designed and manufactured by SpaceX, Starlink has started providing internet access in remote or rural areas of the globe, especially where the service is unreliable or unavailable.

This was Vandenberg’s eighth Starlink mission of the year and the 18th from the West Coast since September 2021. 

Many more missions have occurred from Florida, with the rockets delivering more than 4,400 satellites into space.

However, due to failures, the number of working satellites reportedly sits closer to 4,100, according to the online tally by Jonathan McDowell, astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

SpaceX reportedly plans as many as 30,000 satellites for the Starlink system, one of several mega constellations in development by various firms.

Tuesday night’s liftoff also marked the third Falcon 9 rocket launch of May from Vandenberg, and the 11th SpaceX rocket launch from the base in 2023.

The West Coast launch also was the first of what reportedly will be three missions to deliver Starlink satellites within the next seven days.

The next two will occur from Florida, with one Thursday morning and the other early next week.