Locals in southern California could be in for a bit of a surprise on Sunday, October 7, when a Space rocket coming in to land will cause audible sonic booms nearby.
The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base will be taking place Sunday evening, scheduled for 7.21pm local time. It will be carrying the SAOCOM 1A satellite into space, an Argentinian radar observation satellite.
This will be the first launch from California where SpaceX also attempts to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 back on land. Previous landings have either been at sea on a drone ship, or on land at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
For that reason, the Air Force has issued a warning that locals could hear multiple sonic booms during the landing, in case anyone was worried by the sudden loud noises.
“Local residents may see the first stage of the Falcon 9 returning to Vandenberg AFB,” they said in a Facebook post. “Residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties may hear one or more sonic booms during the landing operation.”
The launch was originally scheduled to take place on October 6, but has now been pushed back by 24 hours. SpaceX said on Twitter that the rocket and its payload were “healthy”, with the additional time being used to complete pre-flight checks.
Previous launches from Vandenberg have used a drone ship in the ocean for their landing. But this launch will use a concrete landing zone about 400 meters (1,300 feet) from the launch pad, named Landing Zone 4, following consultation on the impact to local wildlife.
“SpaceX signaled earlier this year its intention to attempt the first rocket landing at Vandenberg, following lengthy environmental and safety reviews by the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration, NOAA, and state authorities,” noted Spaceflight Now.
“Regulators examined how the returns might affect wildlife and natural resources, including seals that could be spooked by sonic booms.”
This will be SpaceX’s 17th launch of the year, with their last being the launch of a Telstar communications satellite on September 10. This will also be the 16th flight of a reused first stage booster, with this one being used for the launch of 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites on July 25.