SpaceX launches rocket over San Diego, then sticks the landing

Katie Ramirez
October 8, 2018

Taking off at about 19:21 local time (02:21 GMT), the first stage of the rocket returned safely to the air base about eight minutes later.

The reusable booster assembly makes the use of rockets more affordable for a wide range of customers across the globe. It was also the first West Coast landing of an orbital class rocket booster on land, SpaceX said.

The satellite's twin, SAOCOM-1B, will also launch on a Falcon 9; its liftoff is targeted for next year.

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.

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted out this picture of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket's contrail, glowing in Southern California's skies after sunset.

But Sunday's flight marked the first time SpaceX attempted a landing at Vandenberg, a milestone made possible by extensive environmental and safety studies that concluded the noise and possible aftermath of a failure would not cause any significant damage or harm to area wildlife. SpaceX got in on the action themselves, sharing four photos of the dazzling light display. SpaceX's landing record now stands at 30 successful booster recoveries, 11 at Cape Canaveral, one at Vandenberg and 18 on droneships.

The SAOCOM 1 satellite is operated by Argentina's space agency, the National Commission on Space Activities, and will work in tandem with another satellite primarily to gather soil moisture information. But that's possible only when launching relatively light payloads to not-too-distant orbits; on other missions, there's not enough fuel left for the Falcon 9 first stage to maneuver all the way back to land.

The company is contracting with NASA on several ventures and one of SpaceX's spacecraft was the first private spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station.

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