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West Coast's 25th Falcon Rocket Launch of 2023 Lifts Off Early Monday | Local News | Noozhawk

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A Falcon 9 rocket begins to lift off at Vandenberg Space Force Base to deliver 22 additional Starlink satellites into orbit early Monday. Credit: (SpaceX photo)

SpaceX continues to blast through a busy launch year with another liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket and 22 Starlink satellites from Vandenberg Space Force Base early Monday morning.

The two-stage rocket departed from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base at 2:30 a.m. Monday after being delayed a couple of days.

More than 8 minutes later, Falcon's first-stage booster, finishing its 15th flight, returned to land on the droneship dubbed Of Course I Still Love You stationed in the Pacific Ocean. 

Satellite deployment took place approximately 1 hour after the rocket's liftoff, SpaceX representatives confirmed. 

SpaceX has designed, manufactured and launched more than 5,440 Starlink satellites from California and Florida as the firm works to expand the system to provide internet access in rural and remote areas where land-based service remains unreliable or unavailable.

However, slightly more than 5,000 satellites currently remain operational, according to the detailed online tally kept by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer and astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Some satellites have experienced an early de-orbit, re-entered after failure or otherwise been disposed of from the working constellation. 

SpaceX reportedly plans 30,000 satellites for the Starlink constellation.

Of the 25 West Coast missions for Falcon so far during 2023, 19 have carried Starlink satellites into orbit with others delivering an assortment of commercial, military and other craft. 

And Falcon isn't done yet. South Korean officials have said the SpaceX rocket with its spy satellite will launch from Vandenberg on Nov. 30. 

Monday's launch also marked the 31st from Vandenberg in 2023, an exceptionally busy year that a commander said could see more than 40 liftoffs.

The West Coast launch Monday ended a busy weekend for SpaceX since it was the last of three missions from three states for the company. 

The firm kicked off the weekend with a Friday Falcon liftoff carrying Starlink satellites from Florida followed by the second integrated flight test for SpaceX's behemoth Starship rocket from Texas on Saturday morning. 

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