In Depth

SpaceX lands Falcon 9 rocket after lighting up Californian skies

Los Angeles mayor assured residents that the streaks of light were ‘definitely not aliens’

A SpaceX reusable Falcon 9 rocket was successfully relanded yesterday evening, after illuminating the skies above California. 

The rocket took off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Los Angeles, at 7:21pm local time (3:21am UK time), Bloomberg reports. The main booster stage then returned and touch back down at the launch site eight minutes later.

The Falcon 9 was carrying the Argentine SAOCOM 1A observation satellite, which is equipped with a radar to help rescue teams respond to “emergencies and natural disasters”, says The Verge

Although SpaceX has recovered rocket boosters from several previous launches, it was the first touchdown on the US West Coast - and gave local residents the chance to enjoy a light display as the separated base and payload raced across the sky, says the BBC.

Witnesses shared images and videos showing the blue and orange streaks on social media, while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti assured Californians that the lights were “definitely not aliens”.

Most of the space firm’s previous launches have taken place at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida, rather than in its home state of California.

Yesterday’s mission also marked the 30th landing of a reusable rocket booster, a technology pioneered by SpaceX “to save costs and attract business”, says the BBC.

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