SpaceX Gears Up For Satellite Launch On Sunday, Shoots For First West-Coast Landing Of A Falcon 9 Rocket

Bill IngallsNASA via Getty Images

After resting up for nearly a month following the September 10 launch of the Telstar 18 VANTAGE satellite, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is now a few days away from its next flight.

The 230-foot-tall (70 meters) rocket is poised to ferry yet another spacecraft into orbit — an Argentinian Earth-observing satellite dubbed SAOCOM-1A — and will be taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sunday evening, the Inquisitr previously reported.

While the weekend launch is definitely of great importance for SpaceX, as the company will be reusing a “Block 5” first stage for the second time, the evening’s main event starts after the payload has been successfully blasted off into space.

First SpaceX Rocket Landing On California Soil

According to Space, the launch will be followed by a land-based touchdown of the “Block 5” booster — the first one ever attempted on West Coast grounds.

“This will be SpaceX’s first land landing attempt at Vandenberg Air Force Base,” states an advisory from Vandenberg Air Force Base officials. “Local residents may see the first stage of the Falcon 9 returning to Vandenberg AFB, including multiple engine burns associated with the landing. During the landing attempt residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties may hear one or more sonic booms.”

Although SpaceX originally targeted an October 6 launch for the SAOCOM-1A satellite, as the company announced on Twitter shortly after a pre-launch static fire test on Tuesday, it later decided to push back the date 24 hours in order to complete preflight checkouts.

“Now targeting October 7 for launch of SAOCOM-1A. Rocket and payload are healthy,” SpaceX tweeted on October 3.

The Falcon 9 rocket will be lifting off from SpaceX’s Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC-4E) and is scheduled to soar to the skies at 7.21 p.m. PDT (10:21 p.m. EDT; 02:21 GMT on October 8) at the earliest.

Second Reuse Of A ‘Block 5’ Falcon 9 Booster

Sunday’s launch comes exactly two months after SpaceX’s historic reflight of a “Block 5” Falcon 9, as reported by the Inquisitr at the time. The company will be performing the same feat for a second time on October 7 by launching its B1048 booster — the same one it used to loft 10 Iridium NEXT satellites on July 25.

Incidentally, the previous launch of this particular Falcon 9 “Block 5” rocket also occurred from Vandenberg, with no other SpaceX flights taking off from the West Coast since then.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket preparing to launch from the SLC-4E pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket preparing to launch from the SLC-4E pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base.Featured image credit: Bill IngallsNASA via Getty Images

While the B1048 booster performed an ocean landing after its first flight, touching down on the Just Read the Instructions drone ship stationed in the Pacific Ocean, SpaceX has opted to shake things up this time around and go for a return to launching site landing, or RTLS, at Vandenberg.

The landing pad, which sits just a quarter-mile (or roughly 400 meters) from SLC-4E, has been leased from the Air Force since 2015, but the private space company managed to get approval for using it only recently, notes Wired.

All the company’s previous RTLS landings have been carried out at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida.

A Word On The SAOCOM-1A Satellite

Developed by Argentina’s national space agency (Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales, or CONAE), SAOCOM-1A is a radar observation satellite — the first of an identical pair, each weighing 3,527 pounds (1,600 kilograms), reports Spaceflight Now.

The Earth-observing satellite is designed to help measure soil moisture up to a depth of more than six feet (two meters), so that researchers can predict harvest yields, floods, and droughts. At the same time, SAOCOM-1A will be keeping an eye out for any potential oil spills, floods, wildfires, and other natural or human-caused disasters that could occur in the future.

The spacecraft is part of a future constellation of six satellites that will be operating under a joint project with Italy’s Cosmo-SkyMed constellation, aimed at snapping high-resolution images of Earth twice a day.