SpaceX launches 50th Falcon 9 mission of the year

SpaceX hit the 50th launch mark less than halfway through the year, continuing its efforts to get as close as possible to 148 launches in a calendar year.

20 Starlink satellites, 13 of which are direct-to-cell capable (DtC), launched from Vandenberg Space Force Base on Tuesday to the Southeast and into a 53-degree orbital inclination.

The continued addition of the DtC Starlink satellites will help SpaceX eliminate dead zones as these satellites come online. Starlink satellites usually take around two months on average to reach their operational orbits. During these two months, each satellite gets a health check after its ride to orbit to determine if it is good to raise orbit or needs to be de-orbited to prevent future space junk.

The DtC Starlinks will also help SpaceX slowly begin to allow phones to connect to the T-Mobile network in the U.S., an agreement that was announced in August 2022. While the first DtC Starlinks will be positioned in areas where there is little to no normal cell signal, as more are added, more and more populated areas will be able to connect to the Starlink network, similar to how the ramp-up of the Starlink network was when it began.

The Falcon that launched the 50th mission of the year was Booster 1063, which flew for the 18th time. It last flew 65 days ago. Since its debut in November 2020, B1063 has now launched 13 Starlink missions, a missile warning satellite mini-constellation, a Transporter mission consisting of 51 separate payloads, a OneWeb/Iridium satellite internet rideshare, the Sentinel-6A Michael Freilich ocean monitoring satellite, and the DART mission which saw a satellite slam into an asteroid.

B1063 made a smooth landing on the droneship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ just over eight minutes after it began its trip to space and back. OCISLY made its own record turnaround, spending just over 4 days in the Port of Long Beach before heading out for this most recent mission.

Now that SpaceX has completed 50 orbital launches, how many do you think they will complete by the end of the year?

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

Richard Angle: Launch journalist, specializing in launch photography. Based on the Space Coast, a short drive from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pads.
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