Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Los Angeles, at 7:21 p.m. on Sunday. The rocket’s reusable booster touched down at the base approximately eight minutes later, while the rest of the rocket carried its satellite cargo into space.
Sunday marked the first time SpaceX has landed one of its booster drones on the West Coast following several successful landings in Florida. The boosters are part of Musk’s effort to cut down on the cost of space travel by reusing parts of his rockets.
Awestruck Californians shared photos of the Falcon 9 rocket on social media. Several images showed the rocket as a comet-like streak of light through the night sky.
Many of the photos and videos appear to have been captured using cellphone cameras.
“Nope, definitely not aliens,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tweeted late Sunday, along with a photo of the rocket.
The rocket’s cargo, the SAOCOM 1A satellite, is the first of two designed by Argentina’s space agency, the Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales, to observe the Earth. The satellites carry high-resolution instruments that can be used during disasters and for land monitoring.
Musk celebrated the successful launch on Twitter, where he shared several photos from Vandenberg Air Force Base, including an image of the drone booster touching down.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently punished Musk for a tweet suggesting he might take his other company, Tesla, private earlier this year. Musk has been ordered to step down as chairman of the company.
Musk announced last month that SpaceX will send a Japanese billionaire on a trip around the moon.
The Falcon 9 is the second-largest rocket ever launched by SpaceX. The company successfully sent a Tesla roadster into space last year aboard the Falcon Heavy, a spacecraft with three Falcon 9-style boosters.
Musk is also developing an even larger spacecraft, dubbed the Big Falcon Rocket, to launch manned missions to the moon and Mars.
—With files from the Associated Press
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