A Falcon 9 rocket with a pre-flown first stage launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base tonight (Oct. 7) at 10:21 p.m. EDT (7:21 p.m. local time; 0221 GMT on October 8), successfully delivering Argentina's SAOCOM-1A Earth-observation satellite to orbit.
SpaceX has previously landed first stage rockets on land after Florida launches but had not done so on the West Coast. The Air Force had advised the people in Central California about seeing mysterious lights and also sounds of engine booms while the first stage returned back to its base. SpaceX developed innovative titanium grid fins that were mounted on top of the rocket's stages that allowed it to exercise control over attitude and steering before finally, the booster landed on the ground tail-first on its four landing legs.
The company, led by Elon Musk, sells launches on used Falcon 9 first-stage boosters at a discount to the $62 million price of a launch on a new Falcon 9 rocket.
The SAOCOM launch marks SpaceX's 17th launch of the year. For SpaceX this is the twelfth successful landing of the first stage to earth and thirtieth in the overall standings together with the marine landings on an Autonomous platform.
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The company made headlines last month when Musk held a press conference to announce the first "space tourist" - a Japanese billionaire who will be launched around the moon on the company's Big Falcon Rocket in 2023.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying an Argentinian satellite blasts off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site. The booster first saw action back in July, delivering 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites into orbit.
As the biggest antenna in space for a civil mission, its main goal is to gather soil moisture information.
Videos of the rocket's liftoff also drew attention. The second satellite will be SAOCOM 1B.