SpaceX launches 20 Starlink satellites on Falcon 9 flight from Vandenberg Space Force Base

A stack of SpaceX Starlink satellites, which included the first six featuring Direct to Cell capabilities. The batch launched on the Starlink 7-9 mission, which lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Jan. 2, 2024. Image: SpaceX

SpaceX kicked off the weekend with the launch of another batch of its Starlink satellites. The mission, dubbed Starlink 8-8, added 20 more satellites to the low Earth orbit constellation, including 13 that have Direct to Cell capabilities.

Liftoff from Vandenberg Space Force Base happened 5:58 a.m. PDT (8:58 a.m. EDT, 1258 UTC). The launch came less than 12 hours after SpaceX launched 22 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and roughly 48 hours after launching the fourth flight of its Starship rocket from southern Texas.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting this mission, tail number B1061 in the SpaceX fleet, launched for a 21st time, tying B1062 as the company’s flight leaders. B1061 previously launched two quartets of astronauts (Crew-1 and Crew-2), two multi-satellite rideshare missions (Transporter-4 and Transporter-5) as well as nine previous Starlink missions.

A little more than minutes after liftoff, B1061 landed on SpaceX’s droneship, ‘Of Course I Still Love You.’ It marked the 92nd landing on OCISLY and the 318th booster landing to date.

On June 1, Michael Nicolls, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink Engineering, noted that the 11 Starlink launches in May included 26 Direct to Cell Starlink satellites which presented “over 8 percent of the sats needed for initial direct-to-cell service.”

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