LOS ANGELES, CA — The Southern California sky lit up Sunday night, prompting thousands to turn their heads and cameras to the sky to watch the spectacle created by a historic SpaceX rocket launch.
The South Bay’s SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket and satellite into orbit Sunday night from Vandenberg Air Force Base and then made history by landing the ship’s rocket booster back on Earth, the first time the firm has done so on the west coast. The launch created a light show that could be seen across Southern California. it was as though a cosmic flashlight lit up the night sky. The sight prompted drivers to pull over along the 605 Freeway to look up at the heavens.
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 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.
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.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report. Photo and video by Paige Austin; photos, courtesy Joe Fanaselle