SpaceX's latest rocket launch dazzles in California's night sky

Katie Ramirez
October 9, 2018

SpaceX is targeting Sunday, October 7 for the launch of the SAOCOM 1A satellite from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It was a planned launch by Hawthorne-based SpaceX.

SpaceX has flown boosters back to land after launches from Florida but has yet to do so in California. 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.

Ahead of the launch, officials issued warnings to residents about the possibility of sonic booms.

SpaceX has a contract to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station as part of what's known as the "Commercial Crew" programme with Nasa, but the timeline for the first flights has slipped repeatedly. "During the landing attempt residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties may hear one or more sonic booms". "This won't be subtle".

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According to SpaceX's press release, SAOCOM 1A is carrying an "active instrument consisting of a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which works in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum, particularly the L-band". Most likely this is related to the SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket which launched around 7:30 p.m.

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

SAOCOM 1A 3,000-kilogram satellite built by INVAP and this deployment was done in conjunction with Argentina's space agency with the goal of radar-imaging the earth.

The SAOCOM launch marks SpaceX's 17th launch of the year.

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