SpaceX Launch Lights Up The California Night Sky—And Dazzles Spectators

A SpaceX rocket launch lit up the California sky last night, and viewers were awestruck.

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base last night at 7:21 p.m. local time, delivering Argentina’s SAOCOM-1A Earth-observation satellite to orbit, according to Space.com.

Just 8 minutes later, after launching the satellite, the rocket made a successful return to the Earth’s surface via a landing zone about a quarter of a mile away from the launch site (as opposed to out at sea)—the first West Coast land landing of an orbital class rocket booster, according to SpaceX.

Offering live commentary during the launch, SpaceX firmware engineer Tom Praderio said: 

This is great news for everyone here at SpaceX. We’re all very excited.

Viewers—from regular folks to actor Seth MacFarlane and aviation enthusiast Phil Derner Jr.were excited too, posting photos of the lit Southern California sky on Twitter:.  

Even Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti got in on the action:

According to Space.com, Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), “is a commercial company aiming to launch cargo, and eventually people, to low-Earth orbit.” 

“The only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low Earth orbit,” the 2002 firm has worked under contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program and its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

SpaceX announced the stages of the launch on Twitter:

Space fan or not, commenters seemed to agree it was something to behold:

According to a SpaceX mission description, the SAOCOM 1 satellite, “together with the Italian COSMO-SkyMed X-Band SAR constellation, comprise the Italian-Argentine Satellite System for Emergency Management (SIASGE), a partnership between CONAE and the Italian Space Agency (ASI).”

H/T: Twitter, Space.com