First SpaceX West Coast rocket landing lights up California sky

Muriel Hammond
October 8, 2018

The Air Force is warning residents on California's central coast to be prepared for unusual sights and sounds this weekend as SpaceX attempts its first return of a rocket to launch site on the West Coast.

After launching a satellite from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Sunday evening with the Falcon 9 rocket, the spaceflight company brought its first stage booster back to Earth just under eight minutes after liftoff.

Cheers went up from SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., as webcams showed the first stage setting itself down on Landing Zone 4.

Residents in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties also may hear sonic booms.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from a launch pad in Florida on March 30, 2017.

But Sunday's flight marked the first time SpaceX attempted a landing at Vandenberg, a milestone made possible by extensive environmental and safety studies that concluded the noise and possible aftermath of a failure would not cause any significant damage or harm to area wildlife. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk warned that the booms "won't be subtle".


As The Verge noted, SpaceX hasn't been making sea landings by choice.

The rocket will carry the Argentinian SOACOM 1A radar mapping satellite.

A graphic explaining sonic booms, provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base ahead of a planned SpaceX launch on October 7, 2018.

"SAOCOM-1, together with the Italian COSMO-SkyMed X-Band SAR constellation, comprise the Italian-Argentine Satellite System for Emergency Management (SIASGE), a partnership between CONAE and the Italian Space Agency (ASI)", SpaceX officials wrote in a mission description.

"SAOCOM" is short for "Satélite Argentino de Observación Con Microondas", which is Spanish for "Argentine Microwave-Observation Satellite".

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