The primary goal of Sunday's mission is to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX will also try for the first time to bring the Falcon's first stage back to a landing at the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site. It will mark the first time the innovative company has attempted a ground landing at Vandenberg.
The satellite is the first of two from Argentina. The rocket's previously flown first stage then flipped around and returned to the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site, chalking up SpaceX's first West Coast landing.
Cheers went up from SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., as webcams showed the first stage setting itself down on Landing Zone 4. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk also warned of the boom from his Twitter account.
"During the landing attempt residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties may hear one or more sonic booms". The rocket plume is expected to be illuminated by the sun after the launch at 7:21 p.m. Sunday. The satellite is created to provide radar imagery to help emergency responders and monitor the environment, including the collection of soil moisture measurements. Finally, dropping straight down toward Landing Zone 4, the rocket's four landing legs deployed, a single engine re-started and the booster settled to a picture-perfect touchdown in a cloud of smoke.
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SpaceX has a second CONAE satellite, Saocom-1B, that it is also tasked with launching.
Earlier, the launch had been planned for Saturday, but SpaceX said Wednesday it was rescheduling the launch and would use the extra time to complete pre-flight checks.
As The Verge noted, SpaceX hasn't been making sea landings by choice.