SpaceX to launch and land Falcon 9 rocket from Southern California

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The SAOCOM-1 mission marked the first time that the company had completed a successful landing of a Falcon 9's first stage back near the launch site - at its West Coast launch site.

"Local residents may see the first stage of the Falcon 9 returning to Vandenberg AFB, including multiple engine burns associated with the landing", an advisory from the base explained.

The launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket Sunday night came with a sonic boom warning.

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

The SpaceX mission, masterminded by billionaire Elon Musk, marks the 62nd flight of the Falcon 9, a rocket created to land back on Earth so it can be used again. Previous rocket landings had taken place on the East Coast.

Part of a two-satellite system operated by Argentina's National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE), SAOCOM 1A uses synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to monitor Earth. The rocket boosted an Argentine environmental satellite into orbit.

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But many far beyond the region were taken by surprise when the launch illuminated the sky, wondering about the origins of the otherworldly looking sight.

Closely held SpaceX's valuation has climbed to about $28 billion (R417bn) as it racks up successful launches, making it the third-most valuable venture-backed startup in the USA after Uber Technologies and Airbnb SpaceX completed a record 18 missions in 2017 and is on track to exceed that number this year. This mission has the main aim to gather soil moisture information.

The Air Force warned area residents to expect unfamiliar sonic booms.

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The launch also looked just as stunning in video. The second satellite will be SAOCOM 1B.

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