SpaceX will attempt rocket launch — and landing — this weekend

The wait for the Falcon 9 rocket’s next launch and first landing attempt at Vandenberg Air Force Base is nearly over.

Liftoff of the Space Exploration Technologies rocket is planned for 7:21 p.m. Sunday from Space Launch Complex-4 East on South Base, Vandenberg officials said earlier this week.

The mission had originally been planned for Saturday night.

If Sunday’s countdown is postponed, the next launch attempt would occur Oct. 11, officials said.

Approximately 10 minutes after liftoff, the first stage of the Falcon rocket will attempt to return to touch down at Space Launch Complex-4 West at the base for what representatives dubbed a flyback mission.

Falcon is set to carry SAOCOM 1A, an Earth-observation satellite, for Argentina’s space agency.

Previous Falcon rocket launches from Vandenberg have been followed by landing attempts on a droneship in the ocean.

However, this week’s mission involves the inaugural attempt to touch down on land — actually a site now called Landing Zone 4 and formerly known as Space Launch Complex-4 West — not far from its launch pad.

Along with the normal rumble of the rocket’s departure, the return of Falcon’s first-stage could create one or more sonic boom hearing in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties, Vandenberg officials said.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted Saturday afternoon: “Sonic boom warning. This won’t be subtle.”

A sonic boom refers to the sound stemming from shock waves of an aircraft or other vehicle traveling faster than the speed of sound.

The launch, landing and sonic boom depend upon weather conditions and other factors.

The public can view this launch and landing from the Hawk’s Nest on Azalea Lane off of Highway 1, one-half mile south of Vandenberg’s main gate.

The Hawk’s Nest gates will open at 5 p.m. Sunday and close at 7:10 p.m.

Alcohol, smoking, open fires and barbecues will not be allowed. Pets and weapons also are banned along with recreational vehicles and campers.

The use of small unmanned aerial systems, or drones, is prohibited within five miles of any active runway, such as Vandenberg’s, officials said.

Weather willing, other sites around the Lompoc Valley also may offer views of the launch and landing. Those include the peak of Harris Grade Road and several locations in Vandenberg Village.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
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