That wasn't a UFO. SpaceX launch lights up Southern California sky

Clark Diaz
October 9, 2018

SpaceX launched and landed the Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday night - making it the first successful landing of an orbital class rocket booster on West Coast land. The California-based aerospace manufacturing company founded by Elon Musk launched its Falcon 9 rocket Sunday evening.

During the landing attempt residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties were warned that they may hear one or more sonic booms.

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

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There have been 30 successful SpaceX booster landings in all, including the at-sea and on-land touchdowns in Florida.

And, less than 8 minutes after liftoff, the booster's first stage came back to Earth for a pinpoint touchdown at SpaceX's Vandenberg landing zone, just a quarter-mile (400 meters) from its launch pad.

A graphic explaining sonic booms, provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base ahead of a planned SpaceX launch on October 7, 2018.

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The mission got underway at 7:21:28 p.m. PDT (GMT-7; 10:21 p.m. EDT), a bit less than an hour after sunset, when the booster's nine Merlin 1D engines ignited, throttled up to full thrust and quickly pushed the 229-foot-tall rocket away from Launch Complex 4-East.

The fact that the launch and landing took place near Los Angeles meant there were ample opportunities for Southern Californians to catch the show (and for unwitting observers to register UFO reports). It's landing on terra firma after successfully obtaining a license for the pad this summer. This mission has the main aim to gather soil moisture information.

Booms from the Falcon 9 booster's re-entry into the atmosphere were predicted to shake the Pacific Coast as far southeast as Ventura County, but officials said the noise pattern can not be accurately predicted given varying upper-atmospheric weather patterns.

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The satellite's twin, SAOCOM-1B, will also launch on a Falcon 9; its liftoff is targeted for next year.

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