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SpaceX rocket launch visible in San Diego County skies

REGION — SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket and satellite into orbit Sunday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base and also safely landed the ship’s rocket booster back on Earth, the first time the futuristic firm has done so on the west coast.

The lift-off came at its scheduled time of 7:21 p.m. SpaceX then successfully handled the launching of an Argentine satellite after setting off a colorful pyrotechnic display as its rocket stages separated.

Photo by John R. Melson
Photo by John R. Melson

For an encore, the rocket’s first stage booster floated earthward and stuck its landing in the center of LZ-4, SpaceX’s new landing pad at Vandenberg.

“Sonic boom warning. This won’t be subtle” advised SpaceX founder Elon Musk on his Twitter feed at midday Sunday.

Previous recapture missions from Vandenberg have landed the rocket on a barge floating in the Pacific Ocean, about 400 miles out to sea.

The company previously has landed rockets on the ground, but always at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The launch employed the upgraded Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket. The Block 5 is considered more durable than previous Falcon 9 varieties, capable of flying as many as 10 missions.

The rocket being used in Sunday’s mission was previously employed in a June launch.

Air Force officials 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 flight.

The rocket was carrying into orbit an Argentine Earth-observing satellite, known as SAOCOM-1A. The satellite is one of a planned six-satellite array.

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