SpaceX launch and landing in California

Greg Lawrence
October 8, 2018

It's the very first time SpaceX (or anyone) has successfully landed a rocket on the West Coast.

Southern California residents are being warned to expect a large sonic boom Sunday evening as SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, then attempts its first-ever landing on the West Coast, according to the company and military officials.

After Falcon 9's fireworks, booster B1048 managed a stunning return to Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4), giving local observers a nice triple sonic boom.

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

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

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The primary objective of the mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX also wanted to expand its recovery of first stages to its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles. "This won't be subtle".

The satellite is the first of two for Argentina's space agency. The rocket plume is expected to be illuminated by the sun after the launch at 7:21 p.m. Sunday.

Saocom-1A has an L-band payload created to study soil moisture for agriculture, disaster monitoring and scientific research.

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

The second satellite will be SAOCOM 1B. At the time, the launch was scheduled to occur from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean where SpaceX launched the now retired Falcon 1. SpaceX's landing record now stands at 30 successful booster recoveries, 11 at Cape Canaveral, one at Vandenberg and 18 on droneships.

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