SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket and satellite into orbit Sunday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base creating a stunning sight in the night sky over Southern California.
The lift-off came at its scheduled time of 7:21 p.m. SpaceX handled a separation of the rocket stages in flight then landed the rocket booster back at its launch site on the California coast, marking a West Coast first for the Hawthorne-based company.
The primary purpose of the mission was to carry an Argentine Earth-observing satellite, known as SAOCOM-1A, into orbit, but SpaceX also wanted to expand its recovery of first stages to its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
SpaceX Rocket Launch Lights Up San Diego Sky
SpaceX had previously flown first-stage rockets back to land after Florida launches but had not done so on the West Coast. Previous recapture missions from Vandenberg Air Force Base have landed the rocket on a barge floating in the Pacific Ocean, about 400 miles out to sea.
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.
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.
"Sonic boom warning. This won't be subtle," advised SpaceX founder Elon Musk on his Twitter feed at midday Sunday.
[NATL-LA] PHOTOS: SpaceX Falcon 9 Lights Up SoCal Sky
Air Force officials have 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 launch.
The mission created a spectacular light show visible across the Southland.