Published: Mon, October 08, 2018
Science | By

‘This won’t be subtle’: SpaceX West Coast launch will create sonic boom

‘This won’t be subtle’: SpaceX West Coast launch will create sonic boom

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SAOCOM-1A Earth-observation satellite launches from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on October 7, 2018.

In the launch, scheduled for shortly after 7:20 p.m., a Falcon 9 rocket will carry the satellite SAOCOM 1A to space.

Cheers went up from SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., as webcams showed the first stage setting itself down on Landing Zone 4.

Air Force officials have issued a warning that residents in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties could potentially hear one or more sonic booms due to the launch.

SpaceX had already pulled off more than two dozen first-stage landings during orbital liftoffs, with the boosters coming down on robotic "drone ships" stationed in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and on terra firma at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.


The satellite will be operated by Argentina's space agency, known as the National Commission on Space Activites or by its Spanish-language acronym, CONAE. A sonic boom sounds like an explosion or thunder and is the result of shock waves from a vehicle traveling faster than sound.

SpaceX inaugurated its West Coast rocket-landing pad in style.

A graphic explaining sonic booms, provided by Vandenberg Air Force Base ahead of a planned SpaceX launch on October 7, 2018. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk warned that the booms "won't be subtle". The sonic boom experienced will depend on weather conditions and other factors.

"SAOCOM" is short for "Satélite Argentino de Observación Con Microondas", which is Spanish for "Argentine Microwave-Observation Satellite".

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

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