Residents in central California may hear some really loud booms Sunday night accompanied by odd bright lights, but it’s nothing to fear, the Air Force says.
The sounds will be sonic booms and the lights will be from the guided re-entry of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket scheduled to launch Sunday from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 7:21pm local time, carrying the SAOCOM 1A satellite into space, according to a press release.
Once the spacecraft deploys the satellite into its orbit, the rocket will return to its launch pad via a series of controlled burns that will direct its trajectory and hopefully allow it to return for a soft landing on the landing zone.
This will be the SpaceX’s first landing attempt on dry land at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the West Coast, but not it’s the first launch.
Residents near Vandenberg can expect to see the lights from the rocket itself as it returns to the base, according to a Facebook post by the Air Force’s 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg. People as far as Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties may hear loud sonic booms, depending on the weather.
The SAOCOM 1A satellite’s purpose is to use Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) to “enable all-weather imagery of the planet day and night to perform Earth observations” with the “primary goal of mitigating the effects of natural disasters,” according to Space Flight Now.
Argentina financed the $600 million satellite, hoping its capabilities will help bolster the country’s important agriculture industry, Reuters reports.
Space Flight Now notes that soil moisture data obtained by the satellite will provide information to agricultural planners about “the wetness of soil to a depth of more than 6 feet, which should help predict harvest yields, floods and droughts.”
Argentina President Mauricio Macri told farmers and industry officials last week the satellite “is going to boost the high-quality precision agriculture Argentina relies on.”