The Air Force is warning residents on California's central coast to be prepared for unusual sights and sounds this weekend as SpaceX attempts its first return of a rocket to launch site on the West Coast.
SpaceX has successfully recovered a Falcon 9 Block 5 booster on a land-based landing zone for the first time in the rocket's brief history, marking the debut of the company's West Coast LZ-4 and the second flight of a reused Block 5 booster.
The booster put on a spectacular show as it descended tail first toward Landing Zone 4 just a few hundred yards from the rocket's launch stand, deploying four legs and firing up one of its nine Merlin engines, seemingly at the last moment, to slow down for touchdown in a cloud of fiery exhaust.
SpaceX has a goal of using the boosters up to ten times with little maintenance, and 100 with refurbishment, as well as being able to relaunch boosters 24 hours after landing. Once again, the light is from a SpaceX launch. "The rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:21 p.m. and landed safely back on Earth".
SpaceX used the same first stage for the Saocom-1A mission that launched 10 satellites for Iridium about 10-and-a-half weeks ago, also from Vandenberg. Elon Musk's company had leased a former Titan rocket launch site in 2015 to build its own landing pad, but it it hasn't received clearance.
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Saocom-1A has an L-band payload created to study soil moisture for agriculture, disaster monitoring and scientific research.
SAOCOM 1B is planned to launch next year.
SAOCOM 1, together with the Italian COSMO-SkyMed X-Band SAR constellation, make up the Italian-Argentine Satellite System for Emergency Management, or SIASGE.
SpaceX is launching a satellite to space Sunday - and it's going to be noisy, Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County warns.
"SAOCOM" is short for "Satélite Argentino de Observación Con Microondas", which is Spanish for "Argentine Microwave-Observation Satellite".