VANDENBERG SPACE FORCE BASE, Calif. — A SpaceX rocket carried 52 Starlink internet satellites into orbit from California early Saturday.
The U.S. military has become increasingly interested in using satellite imagery to extend its situational awareness and beyond line-of-sight targeting, partly because of the emergence of low-latency networks, like Starlink, which would make it possible to get data from anywhere in the world to a soldier or weapon system faster than ever.
The American firm also was scheduled to launch a Turkish communications satellite from Florida at 10:58 p.m. EST on Saturday.
The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from coastal Vandenberg Space Force Base at 4:41 a.m. and arced over the Pacific Ocean.
The Falcon’s first stage returned and landed on a SpaceX droneship in the ocean. It was the 11th launch and recovery of the stage.
The second stage continued into orbit and deployment of the satellites was confirmed, said launch commentator Youmei Zhou at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
Starlink is a satellite-based global internet system that SpaceX has been building for years to bring internet access to underserved areas of the world.
Saturday’s mission was the 34th launch for Starlink, a constellation of nearly 2,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.
Nathan Strout in Washington contributed to this report.