Published: Mon, October 08, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

SpaceX Rocket Seen Across California

SpaceX Rocket Seen Across California

Arizonans, and presumably Americans all over the country were collectively confused and maybe a little scared when a giant light appeared in the sky on Sunday night.

SpaceX celebrated its first West Coat landing on October 7, after a Falcon 9 rocket launched from and touched down at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, lighting up the sky over Southern California as it did so.

The U.S. Air Force last week warned central California residents of an expected sonic boom (or two) as the first stage of the Falcon 9 returned to Vandenberg AFB.

The mission got underway at 7:21:28 p.m. PDT (GMT-7; 10:21 p.m. EDT), a bit less than an hour after sunset, when the booster's nine Merlin 1D engines ignited, throttled up to full thrust and quickly pushed the 229-foot-tall rocket away from Launch Complex 4-East.

SpaceX launches of larger payloads use more fuel, so typically touch down on the drone ships at sea, though landings on solid ground reduce turnaround times for the booster rockets.

The notoriously foggy launch site provided a rare clear day for the private aerospace company; the only visible clouds were those formed by gaseous liquid oxygen bleeding off from the vehicle itself, according to SpaceX engineer Tom Praderio.

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"Sonic boom warning. This won't be subtle", SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday ahead of the launch. This is SpaceX's first attempt at a land landing on the West Coast.

SAOCOM 1, together with the Italian COSMO-SkyMed X-Band SAR constellation, make up the Italian-Argentine Satellite System for Emergency Management, or SIASGE.

Both the launch and landing took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Argentina's satellite will reportedly track natural disasters, crop yields and soil-moisture levels from 385 miles (620km) above the earth.

The private spaceflight company has launched multiple satellites and shuttled supplies and science gear to the International Space Station, with its Falcon 9 being the first spacecraft from a private company to reach the station in 2012. Its acronym is short for Satelite Argentino de Observacion Con Microondas.

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