Sonic-boom UFO show! SpaceX launches satellite, lands rocket booster in California

The first Block 5 Falcon 9 at Kennedy Space Center.                  SpaceX

The first Block 5 Falcon 9 at Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX

After a trouble-free countdown, the two-stage rocket blasted off right on time at 7:21 p.m. PT from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, leaving a post-sunset contrail glowing in the cloudless skies above.

The satellite is the first of two for Argentina's space agency, Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales, and will work in conjunction with a constellation of Italian space agency satellites.

The Union-Tribune was soon flooded with photos that came in from such places as San Diego International Airport, Point Loma Nazarene University, Otay Ranch in Chula Vista, the coastal area of Encinitas, and from people in Tijuana.

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Proving out a successful booster retrieval system on the West Coast marks another step in SpaceX's drive to increase rocket reusability and as a result drive down the cost of access to space. Once again, the light is from a SpaceX launch.

The primary goal of Sunday's mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX also successfully sent a first stage booster back to the base for the first time.

By the way: SpaceX would like to land every booster on terra firma, to ease the reflight process.

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If anything goes wrong during the launch and landing, there is a risk of explosion.

Viewers took to social media to speculate on the rocket, which was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, which is about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles. It carries carries a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to be used for emergency management and land monitoring, The Associated Press reported.

SAOCOM-1A's radar measurements will track soil-moisture levels, thereby aiding forecasts of crop yields.

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The satellite's twin, SAOCOM-1B, will also launch on a Falcon 9; its liftoff is targeted for next year.

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