SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket executed its first on-land touchdown on the West Coast tonight after sending Argentina's SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, putting on a show punctuated by a sonic boom for Southern California. Eastern during an instantaneous launch window. It will mark the first time the innovative company has attempted a ground landing at Vandenberg.
Minutes after launch, the rocket's second stage separated from the first-stage booster and continued rising spaceward.
SpaceX landed the rocket's first stage at a newly built landing pad called LZ-4 that is located near Vandenberg's SLC-4E launch pad where the rocket took off.
If anything goes wrong during the launch and landing, there is a risk of explosion.
It was SpaceX's 17th flight so far this year, the company's 44th successful launch in a row and the 63rd overall for the Falcon 9 family of rockets, including the February debut of its three-core Falcon Heavy rocket.
That mission was a success, and SpaceX also landed the first stage of the Falcon 9 at a new site (Landing Zone 4) near its Vandenberg launchpad in a historic first. NASA and the space agencies of Europe, Italy and Canada also provided technical support.
SAOCOM 1, together with the Italian COSMO-SkyMed X-Band SAR constellation, make up the Italian-Argentine Satellite System for Emergency Management, or SIASGE.
Shortly afterward SpaceX confirmed that SAOCOM 1A had been successfully deployed in record time.
The upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 is part of SpaceX's plan for vastly cheaper and more efficient spaceflight. That almost identical satellite will launch in "the near future", also on a Falcon 9, according to the mission narrator for the Saocom-1A webcast.