Rocket carrying Argentinian satellite takes off successfully

Doug Carpenter
October 8, 2018

This will mark the first time SpaceX has attempted a ground landing of the Falcon 9 on the West Coast.

SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SAOCOM 1A satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Southland residents were treated to a spectacular sight Sunday night as SpaceX launched a satellite into space and landed the rocket back to Earth on Californian soil for the first time in the company's history.

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


SpaceX has previously landed first stage rockets on land after Florida launches but has not done so on the West Coast.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk was a bit more succinct in a pre-launch tweet: "Sonic boom warning".

But as always, the landing was a secondary objective. The rocket plume is expected to be illuminated by the sun after the launch at 7:21 p.m. Sunday.

Saocom-1A is a 3,000-kilogram synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite for the Argentine space agency CONAE that was contracted in 2009 for a launch in 2012.


The satellite is the first of two that will be used for emergency management and for land monitoring.

The first stage, meanwhile, flipped around and re-started three of its nine engines to reverse course and head back toward Vandenberg.

Using titanium "grid fins" at the top of the rocket for steering and attitude control, the booster plummeted tail-first toward Vandenberg.

Later, SpaceX reported that the SAOCOM 1A radar satellite was placed in its proper pole-to-pole orbit.


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

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