The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch on Sunday night carrying an Argentine satellite sparked some confusion on social media about a bright light traveling across the Southern California sky.
CONAE was one of the company's first customers, signing up for two Falcon 9 launches back when SpaceX had only flown the smaller Falcon 1 vehicle.
"During the landing attempt residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties may hear one or more sonic booms".
Perhaps even more jaw-dropping than the Iridium-4 spectacle that caused quasi-hysteria throughout much of California, Falcon 9 B1048 and its upper stage companion created an extraordinary show as the booster the booster separated, flipped 180 degrees, and began its boostback burn directly into the plume of S2's Merlin Vacuum engine.
SpaceX has a goal of using the boosters up to ten times with little maintenance, and 100 with refurbishment, as well as being able to relaunch boosters 24 hours after landing. Previous re-capture missions from Vandenberg have landed the rocket on a barge floating in the Pacific Ocean, about 400 miles out to sea. Once again, the light is from a SpaceX launch.
The rocket being used in Sunday's mission was previously employed in a June launch. By launching after the sun has set at the launch site itself, this allows the rocket to quite literally catch up with the terminator and reenter sunlight while those on the ground at or around the pad experience twilight conditions.
A look at Landing Zone 4, SpaceX's newest rocket landing site, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The satellite's twin, SAOCOM-1B, will also launch on a Falcon 9; its liftoff is targeted for next year.