SpaceX Pulls Off First West Coast Rocket Landing

Theresa Obrien
October 8, 2018

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.

The primary goal of the mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into space, but SpaceX also wanted to expand its recovery of first-stage boosters to its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles north-west of Los Angeles. While many people's first instinct was to think aliens were en route, it was, in fact, a SpaceX rocket launch. The booster, meanwhile, relit its engines to maneuver itself for the return trip to SpaceX's landing zone, not far from the launch pad. A sonic boom is a sound associated with the shock waves from an aircraft or vehicle traveling faster than the speed of sound.

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The mission launched Argentina's newest Earth-observing satellite, SAOCOMM-1A, which will be used to track natural disasters like floods, wildfires, and oil spills from a low-earth orbit of 385 miles (620km). Flying both satellite constellations along the same orbit supports a rapid response by providing radar readings in emergency situations. LZ-4 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 4W, from which Titan rockets were previously launched. It was also the first West Coast landing of an orbital class rocket booster on land, SpaceX said. It was the 30th successful landing for SpaceX out of 62 total launches and the 12th on land.

SpaceX has also been experimenting with a procedure to save additional millions of dollars by retrieving the Falcon 9's fairing, or nose cone. This time, however, the ship - nicknamed Mr. Steven - stayed in port, perhaps due to rough seas in the Pacific.

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