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.
Shortly afterward SpaceX showed a shot of Falcon 9, successfully landed on landing zone 4. "We're all very excited". One of those viewers was Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. "Nope, definitely not aliens", Garcetti wrote.
"Local residents may see the first stage of the Falcon 9 returning to Vandenberg AFB, including multiple engine burns associated with the landing", an advisory from the base explained.
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.
By the way: SpaceX would like to land every booster on terra firma, to ease the reflight process.
SpaceX has previously landed first stage rockets on land after Florida launches but had not done so on the West Coast.
Land landings aren't threatened by storms like ocean landings are, and they also allow SpaceX to refurbish the boosters faster, as they don't need to be recovered from sea.
A graphic explaining sonic booms, provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base ahead of a planned SpaceX launch on October 7, 2018. The spacecraft will set up shop 385 miles (620 kilometers) above Earth and scrutinize the planet using a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument. The mission will also help planners and emergency-management officials keep tabs on wildfires, floods and other disasters. The satellite is one of a planned six-satellite array. The satellite is created to provide radar imagery to help emergency responders and monitor the environment, including the collection of soil moisture measurements. "Flying both constellations along the same orbit supports a rapid response by providing SAR information in emergency situations". Its name is short for Satelite Argentino de Observacion Con Microondas.
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