Spacex launch lights up the night sky
The rocket illuminating the Californian sky in an otherworldly display of ghostly glowing cloud
Spacex’s latest Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched Argentina’s SAOCOM 1A Earth observation satellite into orbit on 8 October at 02:21 UTC from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Less than eight minutes after launch the rocket landed safely at a new rocket landing pad just 400 metres away, thereby becoming the first ever Spacex landing on the West Coast. The launch created a nebula-like cloud in the skies above California as the highaltitude plume of rocket exhaust was lit by the setting sunlight. Los Angeles’ mayor Eric Garcetti even took to Twitter to reassure everyone that the light source was nothing to be concerned about: “Nope, definitely not aliens. What you’re looking at is the first launch and landing of the @Spacex Falcon 9 rocket on the West Coast…” The 1,600-kilogram SAOCOM-1A satellite is now in orbit 620 kilometres above Earth and will be using a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) instrument to track soil moisture levels and aid in the forecast of crop yields. The data it collects will also help teams on the ground prepare for and monitor natural disasters like flooding and wildfires. It was the second flight for this particular Falcon 9, which previously launched ten Iridium NEXT commercial communications satellites into low-earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base three months ago. This successful landing is another huge step forward in Spacex’s mission to develop reusable rockets and thereby dramatically cut the cost of spaceflight.