SpaceX launches Argentine satellite, posts first ground-landing on West Coast

In this handout image. the NASA  German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Tuesday

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.

Thanks to the introduction of a brand new rocket landing pad (LZ-4) less than half a kilometer (~0.3 miles) from SpaceX's SLC-4 Vandenberg launch complex, members of the media attending the launch were given the first opportunity ever to capture a Falcon booster recovery with remote cameras.

A Falcon 9 rocket with a pre-flown first stage launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base tonight (Oct. 7) at 10:21 p.m. EDT (7:21 p.m. local time; 0221 GMT on October 8), successfully delivering Argentina's SAOCOM-1A Earth-observation satellite to orbit.

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 event marked the company's first West Coast landing on dry land.

There have been 30 successful SpaceX booster landings in all, including the at-sea and on-land touchdowns in Florida.

The Air Force said before the 7:22 p.m. launch that it expected that people as far away as Sacramento and Southern California would see the rocket's contrail.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the SAOCOM 1 communications satellite roars to orbit on Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. The booster first saw action back in July, delivering 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites into orbit.

According to SpaceX's press release, SAOCOM 1A is carrying an "active instrument consisting of a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which works in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum, particularly the L-band". Its acronym is short for Satelite Argentino de Observacion Con Microondas.

Minutes after launch, the rocket's second stage separated from the first-stage booster and continued rising spaceward.



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