Sunday, 18 November, 2018

San Diegans photograph Sunday night's launch of Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg

Derrick Tucker | 08 October, 2018, 08:40

The Falcon 9 Block 5 lifted off at 10:21 p.m.

On Sunday night-for the first time since July-SpaceX will attempt to launch a satellite into space, and then land part of the rocket back on its base. But tonight's event marked SpaceX's first-ever land touchdown on the West Coast.

The Falcon 9 rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:21 p.m., lighting up the overcast sky before placing an Argentinian SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit. By launching after the sun has set at the launch site itself, this allows the rocket to quite literally catch up with the terminator and reenter sunlight while those on the ground at or around the pad experience twilight conditions. By that year the launch had slipped to 2014, and would continue to slip further as Falcon 9 explosions in 2015 and 2016 compounded earlier delays. This facility, which SpaceX leases from the Air Force, used to feature two launch pads, known as SLC-4 East and SLC-4 West. SpaceX has converted the western one into a landing site and launches Falcon 9s from the eastern one.

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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.

A graphic explaining sonic booms, provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base ahead of a planned SpaceX launch on October 7, 2018. The mission will also help planners and emergency-management officials keep tabs on wildfires, floods and other disasters.

Two minutes later, the second stage engine shut down as planned and two-and-a-half minutes after that, the SAOCOM 1A satellite was released into the planned polar orbit. Flying both satellite constellations along the same orbit supports a rapid response by providing radar readings in emergency situations.

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