SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch gave California residents another scare

In this handout image. the NASA  German Research Centre for Geosciences GRACE Follow On spacecraft launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Tuesday

‘This Won’t be Subtle’: SpaceX West Coast Launch to Create Large Sonic Boom

Social media went into a frenzy in Southern California Sunday night after odd lights appeared to cross the evening sky.

The launch sent a red-orange streak across the sky in the area of its launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County before boosters sent white and yellow pulsating beams of light into the black night sky.

But, no need to fear.

"This is great news for everyone here at SpaceX", Tom Praderio, a SpaceX firmware engineer, said during live launch commentary tonight.

The U.S. Air Force last week warned central California residents of an expected sonic boom (or two) as the first stage of the Falcon 9 returned to Vandenberg AFB. Previous rocket landings had taken place on the East Coast.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried an Earth-observation satellite into space on Sunday and for the first time landed a first-stage booster back at its California launch site. One of those viewers was Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti.

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Such landings are part of SpaceX's push to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets and spacecraft, a breakthrough that company founder and CEO Elon Musk has stressed could cut the cost of spaceflight enough to make grand exploration feats such as the settlement of Mars economically feasible.

The primary objective of the SpaceX mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX also wanted to expand its recovery of first stages to its launch site at Vandenberg.

SAOCOM 1A carries a high-resolution instrument called a synthetic aperature radar that will be used for emergency management during disasters and for land monitoring.

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. The booster first saw action back in July, delivering 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites into orbit.

SAOCOM 1B is planned to launch next year.

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