SpaceX Nails First West Coast Falcon 9 Rocket Landing

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from a launch pad in Florida

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from a launch pad in Florida

The rocket's previously flown first stage then flipped around and returned to the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site, chalking up SpaceX's first West Coast landing. About half an hour later, the first stage booster was sent back to the base, the first time the company has landed this type of rocket on the West Coast.

The mission launched Argentina's newest Earth-observing satellite, SAOCOMM-1A, which will be used to track natural disasters like floods, wildfires, and oil spills from a low-earth orbit of 385 miles (620km).

"Falcon 9 is the first orbital class rocket capable of reflight", notes the SpaceX website.

But many far beyond the region were taken by surprise when the launch illuminated the sky, wondering about the origins of the otherworldly looking sight.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Argentinian satellite has blasted off from California.

The notoriously foggy launch site provided a rare clear day for the private aerospace company; the only visible clouds were those formed by gaseous liquid oxygen bleeding off from the vehicle itself, according to SpaceX engineer Tom Praderio.

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The night sky is lit up above Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., during the launch.

The rocket lifted off at about 7:21 p.m. local time, and landed about 12 minutes later after delivering its package to orbit.

The mission's main goal is to gather soil moisture information.

The Saocom-1A launch places SpaceX one mission away from tying its record of 18 launches in one year, set in 2017.

Having a rocket's first stage return safely to Earth is part Space Exploration Technologies strategy to reduce launch costs and win market share.

SpaceX has a second CONAE satellite, Saocom-1B, that it is also tasked with launching.

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