California love: SpaceX launches and lands its first rocket on the West Coast
In a few short years, SpaceX has turned rocket landings from extraordinary achievements into routine events (although, they are still kind of extraordinary). The company has today notched up another milestone by safely landing its Falcon 9 booster on Californian soil, its first ever landing on the US West Coast.
While this marks SpaceX's 30th rocket landing in all, every one of them up until now has either touched down on its droneship in the ocean or on terra firma at Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it also launches most of its missions.
Today's mission, in which the Falcon 9 rocket fired the SAOCOM 1A satellite into low Earth orbit for the Argentine Space Agency, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It soon finished right where it started, touching down safely on Landing Zone 4 around 1,400 ft (425 m) from the launchpad.
It is the 12th ground landing for SpaceX and the first time it has attempted a landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Where SpaceX launches its rockets from depends on the mission and how its payloads need to be placed into orbit, while where it lands depends, in part, on how much fuel remains.
Today's success therefore heralds the arrival of a new landing option for the company, providing it with greater flexibility in its effort to recover rockets, which is a key part of its overarching aim to slash the cost of spacefaring.
The event may have piqued the interest of LA residents, with the Air Force issuing an alert ahead of time regarding the possibility of sonic booms. These occur as shock waves from the re-entering booster reaching a velocity exceeding the speed of sound. The launch and landing also created quite a visual spectacle, as noted by city mayor Eric Garcetti when tweeting the following image.
"Nope, definitely not aliens," he said. "What you're looking at is the first launch and landing of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the West Coast. The rocket took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:21 p.m. and landed safely back on Earth. 🚀"
Source: SpaceX (Twitter)