Published: Mon, October 08, 2018
Research | By Clarence Powell

Weird light in Arizona sky is from SpaceX launch

Weird light in Arizona sky is from SpaceX launch

A Falcon 9 rocket with a pre-flown first stage launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base tonight (Oct. 7) at 10:21 p.m. EDT (7:21 p.m. local time; 0221 GMT on October 8), successfully delivering Argentina's SAOCOM-1A Earth-observation satellite to orbit.

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

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

Minutes after launch, the rocket's second stage separated from the first-stage booster and continued rising spaceward.

The launch, employing the upgraded Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket, remained scheduled for 7:21 p.m.

SpaceX has previously landed first stage rockets on land after Florida launches but has not done so on the West Coast.

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Land landings aren't threatened by storms like ocean landings are, and they also allow SpaceX to refurbish the boosters faster, as they don't need to be recovered from sea.

The satellite is the first of two from Argentina.

If anything goes wrong during the launch and landing, there is a risk of explosion.

The SAOCOM 1 mission aims to study soil moisture using synthetic-aperture radar readings from two identical satellites in low Earth orbit, SAOCOM 1A and 1B. The satellite is created to provide radar imagery to help emergency responders and monitor the environment, including the collection of soil moisture measurements. CONAE will operate the satellite as part of the Argentine-Italian System of Satellites with the Italian Space Agency, coordinating observations with Italy's four Cosmo-Skymed X-band SAR satellites.

Known as plume interaction, the phenomena has been known to produce extraordinary visual effects and the launch of SAOCOM 1A was certainly no exception.

"SAOCOM" is short for "Satélite Argentino de Observación Con Microondas", which is Spanish for "Argentine Microwave-Observation Satellite".

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