comscore Social media lights up with SpaceX satellite launch | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

Social media lights up with SpaceX satellite launch

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The night sky was lit up above Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., during the launch of a SpaceX rocket carrying an Argentine Earth-observation satellite Sunday. The bright spot at upper left is the 2nd stage heading to orbit while the bright spot on the right is the 1st stage heading back to the airbase.

  • JOE JOHNSTON/THE TRIBUNE (OF SAN LUIS OBISPO) VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Two streaks in this long-exposure photo show a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifting off, left, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, as seen from Pismo Beach, Calif., Sunday, and then its first stage returning, right, to Earth at a nearby landing pad. The primary purpose of the mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX also wanted to expand its recovery of first stages to its launch site at the Air Force base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES >> When SpaceX launched a rocket carrying an Argentine Earth-observation satellite from California, both the night sky and social media lit up.

People as far away as Phoenix and Sacramento posted photos of the Falcon 9 rocket’s launch and return on Sunday night. It was the first time SpaceX landed a first-stage booster back at its launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, about 130 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

The Air Force warned residents on the central California coast they might see multiple engine burns by the first stage and hear one or more sonic booms as it returned.

But many were taken by surprise when the launch illuminated the sky, wondering what the otherworldly looking sight was. Some speculated it was a comet or an alien aircraft.

“Something exploded in the sky west of Phoenix,” Laura Gadbery wrote on Twitter. “Anyone catch it or know what it was?”

Lloyd Lawrence, another user in Phoenix — more than 530 miles away from the launch site — said he was driving on Interstate 10 when he saw the launch and “couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“I wondered who was holding the gigantic flashlight in the sky,” he wrote.

Californians from Los Angeles to Sacramento — more than 340 miles from the launch site — also posted their confusion.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was among those trying to clear up the speculation, tweeting a photo of the launch and writing: “Nope, definitely not aliens.”

Those who knew they were watching a satellite launch posted videos they captured of the stunning spectacle, including one taken over the downtown Los Angeles skyline and a timelapse from Kern County.

The primary purpose of the SpaceX mission was to place the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit, but SpaceX also wanted to expand its recovery of first stages to its launch site at Vandenberg.

SpaceX had previously flown first-stage rockets back to land after Florida launches but had not done so on the West Coast.

SpaceX also has successfully landed Falcon 9 first stages on so-called drone ships off the coasts of Florida and California, all as part of its effort to decrease the cost of space launches by reusing rockets rather than allowing them to fall into the ocean.

The satellite is the first of two for Argentina’s space agency, the Comision Nacional de Actividades Espaciales, and will work in conjunction with a constellation of Italian space agency satellites. Its acronym is short for Satelite Argentino de Observacion Con Microondas.

SAOCOM 1A carries a high-resolution instrument called a synthetic aperture radar that will be used for emergency management during disasters and for land monitoring. The second satellite will be SAOCOM 1B.

Comments (0)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up