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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 10th, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 32

Vandenberg site of historic booster landing

By Spencer Cole

It was a night for the history books. And it definitely wasn't aliens.


EAGLE FLIGHT
Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Oct. 7.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SPACEX

First, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully blasted out of Earth's atmosphere from Vandenberg Air Force Base a little after 7 p.m. on Oct. 7. Conditions were relatively clear as the craft carrying an Argentine radar satellite arced across the Southern California sky. Millions would witness what happened next. 

Suddenly, the rocket was overtaken by blue and white clouds that seemingly erupted from the craft and mushroomed into a misshapen sphere, pulsating with bursts of bright light that could be seen from Los Angeles to the Central Coast.

"Good stage separation," launch officials noted on its countdown network as the booster detached from the main vehicle and began its descent. The satellite would be further pushed into orbit, where it will put its electromagnetic and microwave instruments to use measuring soil moisture across the globe. 

The booster, on the other hand, had a date with destiny. 

Free of the main craft, the half-rocket fired its remaining fuel and slowly made its way back earthside to a small platform set aside by SpaceX at Vandenberg. The area, known as Landing Zone 4, or LZ-4, is famous for being home to countless Titan missile launches during the U.S. Space Program's infancy.


EAGLE HAS LANDED
Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully landed a booster at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Oct. 7. It is the first time a booster has landed on land on the West Coast.
PHOTO COURTESY OF SPACEX

It now carries the distinction as the site of the first successful booster landing on the West Coast.

SpaceX has released little information since the mission's completion. It noted the successful booster landing on its social media account and then provided a few photographs and videos from the evening's launch. 

The launch marked the 12th successful first-stage booster recovery on land for the company, according to spokesperson Eva Behrend. SpaceX has also landed 18 such boosters on platforms at sea with what it calls "Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships." 

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who has been at the center of several controversies involving his use of social media, appeared to stay silent following the landing. His Twitter account has remained active but made no mention of the mission.




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