Unspent fuel from the rocket was illuminated by rays from the setting sun, making the contrail visible across wide areas of California.
"This is great news for everyone here at SpaceX", Tom Praderio, a SpaceX firmware engineer, said during live launch commentary tonight. This will be SpaceX's first landing attempt on the ground at Vandenberg.
Cheers went up from SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., as webcams showed the first stage setting itself down on Landing Zone 4. "What you're looking at is the first launch and landing of the @SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the West Coast".
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch a satellite into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:21 p.m. Saturday.
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SpaceX conducted its seventeenth launch of the year October 7, sending an Argentine radar satellite into low-Earth orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket.
By the way: SpaceX would like to land every booster on terra firma, to ease the reflight process.
SpaceX calls its California touchdown site Landing Zone 4, presumably because it's part of Vandenberg's Space Launch Complex 4 (SLC-4).
As The Verge noted, SpaceX hasn't been making sea landings by choice.
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The launch of the satellite, SAOCOM 1A, is being conducted for Argentina's space agency.
Saocom-1A has an L-band payload created to study soil moisture for agriculture, disaster monitoring and scientific research.
SpaceX is launching a satellite to space Sunday - and it's going to be noisy, Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County warns.
The satellite is the first of two that will be used for emergency management and for land monitoring. Its name is short for Satelite Argentino de Observacion Con Microondas.
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SAOCOM 1B is planned to launch next year.