Tonight, SpaceX will launch a used Falcon 9 rocket from California, a flight that will be followed by one of the company's signature racket landings. But this time, SpaceX will try to land the vehicle at a specific landing point near the launch site – not a drunk ship in the ocean. If successful, it will be the first time the company makes a mark on the west coast.
So far, all SpaceX landings have taken place from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the company's busiest launch site. SpaceX has two landing plates there and managed to move down 11 Falcon 9 rockets on them. And every time the company has tried to land on land, it has been a success.
SpaceX has been looking for landing flights from its second starting point at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as well. The company rented a place in 201
Since this is the first time a rocket will land on Vandenberg, nearby residents can expect to hear a trio of sonic bars. These great thunder clubs are made when the Falcon 9 returns to the ground, moving faster than the speed of the sound. As you travel at such speeds, parts of the rocket create shock waves that people can hear. It was a common event at Cape Canaveral when NASA's spacecraft landed, and it continued with SpaceX's rocket launches over there. The Vandenberg Air Force Base issues a warning to California locals for the evening flight.
Tonight's mission will send a 3 500 pound satellite called SAOCOM 1A for Argentina's space agency. The satellite is one of an identical couple intended to sit in orbit 385 miles up and observe the ground. The two are equipped with radar to assist in response to emergencies and natural disasters, as well as gathering information about the amount of moisture in the soil for the agricultural industry. The second probe SAOCOM 1B will also start on top of a Falcon 9, once in 2019.
The rocket used for this flight was launched from Vandenberg once before. On July 25, the vehicle raised 10 satellites for the telecommunications company Iridium and landed on a Pacific dredger. SpaceX is now geared at 10:21 ET for this liftoff. This launch has an instant launch window, so if the rocket does not go on time, SpaceX needs to try another day. The company has a backup launch date set for the same time Thursday, October 11th.
When this rocket comes from the ground, the 17th launch of the year will be SpaceX. It puts the company just a launch away from tying its record of 18 launches last year. SpaceX has been aiming to beat 24 launches in 2018, but it seems unlikely that the target will be met. But the company is still about to surpass any other American company, and even Russia is launching a total of this year.
The launch is set to start 15 minutes before the liftoff. Check back then to see this flight live.