October 16, 2018

SpaceX West Coast launch to bring sonic booms to California

08 October 2018, 06:22 | Edward Lowe

The first Block 5 Falcon 9 at Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX

The first Block 5 Falcon 9 at Kennedy Space Center.                  SpaceX

Three readers reported seeing an unusual light in the southern skies. "Nope, definitely not aliens", Garcetti wrote.

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

The primary goal of Sunday's mission is to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX will also try for the first time to bring the Falcon's first stage back to a landing at the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site.

"Sonic boom warning. This won't be subtle" advised SpaceX founder Elon Musk on his Twitter feed on Sunday.

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"What you're looking at is the first launch and landing of the @SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the West Coast".

In keeping with that vision, tonight marked the second flight for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, which also helped loft 10 Iridium Next commercial communications satellites from Vandenberg on July 25.

This marked the first time a Falcon 9 rocket had landed on the West Coast, and was SpaceX's 30th landing of a first stage overall. It's landing on terra firma after successfully obtaining a license for the pad this summer.

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

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

The satellite will be operated by Argentina's space agency, known as the National Commission on Space Activites or by its Spanish-language acronym, CONAE. The mission will also help planners and emergency-management officials keep tabs on wildfires, floods and other disasters.

The SAOCOM 1 mission aims to study soil moisture using synthetic-aperture radar readings from two identical satellites in low Earth orbit, SAOCOM 1A and 1B. "Flying both constellations along the same orbit supports a rapid response by providing SAR information in emergency situations". Its name is short for Satelite Argentino de Observacion Con Microondas.

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