SpaceX launched another big batch of its Starlink internet satellites early Thursday morning (June 22) and landed the returning rocket on a ship at sea.
The Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth as planned about eight minutes and 45 seconds after launch. It performed a pinpoint touchdown on the SpaceX droneship Of Course I Still Love You, which was stationed in the Pacific Ocean.
It was the third launch and landing for this particular booster, SpaceX wrote in a mission description.
The Falcon 9's upper stage, meanwhile, continued carrying the 47 Starlink satellites aloft, with the goal of deploying them in low Earth orbit about 19 minutes after liftoff.
SpaceX has now launched more than 4,600 Starlink satellites, the vast majority of which are currently operational, according to astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
And the broadband megaconstellation will continue to grow far into the future. SpaceX has permission to deploy 12,000 Starlink satellites, and the company has applied for approval to launch another 30,000 spacecraft on top of that.
Thursday's Starlink mission was the first part of an early-morning spaceflight doubleheader, if all goes according to plan: A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy rocket is scheduled to launch a classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 5:18 a.m. EDT (0918 GMT).
You can watch the Delta IV Heavy liftoff here at Space.com, courtesy of ULA.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 3:42 a.m. ET on June 22 with news of successful launch and rocket landing.