In a First, SpaceX Launches and Lands a Rocket at California Base

Ismael LynchOct 09, 2018

The rocket will be carrying an Argentinian Earth-observing satellite, known as SAOCOM-1A, into orbit.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket executed its first on-land touchdown on the West Coast tonight after sending Argentina's SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, putting on a show punctuated by a sonic boom for Southern California.

Californians from Los Angeles to Sacramento - about 270 miles (435 kilometers) from the launch site - also posted their confusion. It carries carries a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to be used for emergency management and land monitoring, The Associated Press reported. Any rocket launch is exciting, but SpaceX's Falcon 9 has completed so many missions at this point that yet another satellite delivery is easy to overlook.

SpaceX had already pulled off more than two dozen first-stage landings during orbital liftoffs, with the boosters coming down on robotic "drone ships" stationed in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and on terra firma at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Air Force warned residents on the Central Coast that they might see multiple engine burns by the first stage and hear one or more sonic booms as it returned. SpaceX had previously landed five Falcon boosters at sea after West Coast launches, but this was the first West Coast attempt to pull off a "land landing".

The Falcon 9 Block 5 lifted off at 10:21 p.m. There's no specified launch window, and that could force SpaceX to move liftoff to October 11th if it has to scrub the launch on the 7th.

The satellite's twin, SAOCOM-1B, will also launch on a Falcon 9; its liftoff is targeted for next year.

The launch lit up the sky across San Diego and locals flooded KSWB with photos and questions about what they'd just seen overhead. Its acronym is short for Satelite Argentino de Observacion Con Microondas.

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