Spacex launch lights up the night sky

The rocket il­lu­mi­nat­ing the Cal­i­for­nian sky in an oth­er­worldly dis­play of ghostly glow­ing cloud

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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.

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