SpaceX rocket launch causes social media stir in Southern California

Two streaks in this long exposure

Overlooking the event is precisely what many California residents seem to have done, but when they spotted a bright light streaking across the evening sky, they were quick to jump on social media and ask just what the heck they were seeing.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted out this picture of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket's contrail, glowing in Southern California's skies after sunset. The launch was historic as Space-X brought the lst stage booster back to Vandenberg next to the launch pad the payload has left less than 20 minutes earlier.

The primary goal of the mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX also wanted to expand its recovery of first stages to its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

SpaceX has a second CONAE satellite, Saocom-1B, that it is also tasked with launching. It was SpaceX's first landing on the west coast and its 30th first stage landing overall.

By the way: SpaceX would like to land every booster on terra firma, to ease the reflight process. SpaceX has several other missions planned for this year, including the Falcon 9 launches of another 10 Iridium Next satellites, Es'hailSat's Es'hail-2, and the U.S. Air Force's first GPS-3 satellite.

SpaceX calls its California touchdown site Landing Zone 4, presumably because it's part of Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC-4). Prior landings have taken place on the East Coast.

As the biggest antenna in space for a civil mission, its main objective is to gather soil moisture information.

The private spaceflight company has launched multiple satellites and shuttled supplies and science gear to the International Space Station, with its Falcon 9 being the first spacecraft from a private company to reach the station in 2012. Both spacecraft will make similar observations from orbit, which will be integrated with measurements made by a network of Italian satellites.

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