SpaceX Launch - October 7

08 October, 2018, 10:26 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • A graphic explaining sonic booms provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base ahead of a planned SpaceX launch on Oct. 7 2018

The primary goal of the flight was to boost Argentina's SAOCOM 1A satellite into an orbit around Earth's poles, the first of two orbital radar stations capable of "seeing" through clouds and at night to measure soil moisture, a key indicator of crop yields, droughts and floods.

It's the very first time SpaceX (or anyone) has successfully landed a rocket on the West Coast.

The Falcon 9 rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:21 p.m., lighting up the overcast sky before placing an Argentinian SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit.

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.

The descent was heralded in dramatic fashion by loud sonic booms that rumbled across Southern California as the rocket homed in on its landing pad.

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Then a secondary challenge: SpaceX will try to land the first stage of their rocket back at a landing zone.

Proving out a successful booster retrieval system on the West Coast marks another step in SpaceX's drive to increase rocket reusability and as a result drive down the cost of access to space. The instantaneous launch opportunity is on Sunday, October 7 at 7:21 p.m. PDT, or Monday, October 8 at 2:21 UTC, and the satellite will be deployed about 12 minutes after launch.

Air Force officials have issued a warning that residents in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties could potentially hear one or more sonic booms due to the launch. It has previously made such landings on drone ships in the ocean. The booster, meanwhile, relit its engines to maneuver itself for the return trip to SpaceX's landing zone, not far from the launch pad.

Saocom-1A has an L-band payload created to study soil moisture for agriculture, disaster monitoring and scientific research.

As The Verge noted, SpaceX hasn't been making sea landings by choice.

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