SpaceX launching 50th mission of the year today

SpaceX is set to launch 20 of its Starlink internet satellites today (May 14), on the company’s 50th orbital mission of 2024.

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Starlink spacecraft — 13 of which feature direct-to-cell capability — is scheduled to lift off from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base today during a four-hour window that opens at 12:29 p.m. EDT (1629 GMT; 9:29 a.m. local California time). 

SpaceX will webcast the launch via its X account, beginning about five minutes before the window opens.

Related: Starlink satellite train: How to see and track it in the night sky

If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9’s first stage will come back to Earth today about 8.5 minutes after launch. It will make a vertical touchdown on the droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which will be stationed in the Pacific Ocean.

It will be the 18th launch and landing for this particular first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description. That will be two shy of the company’s reuse record, which is held by three different boosters.

The Falcon 9’s upper stage, meanwhile, will carry the 20 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, where they’ll be deployed about 61 minutes after liftoff.

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Thirty-four of SpaceX’s 49 orbital launches this year to date have been dedicated to building out the Starlink megaconstellation, which currently consists of more than 5,900 working satellites.

That 2024 launch tally does not include the third test flight of SpaceX’s Starship megarocket, which occurred on March 14. SpaceX is currently gearing up for Starship’s fourth test mission, which could take place in three to five weeks, according to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.

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