SpaceX's latest rocket launch dazzles in California's night sky

Used SpaceX Rocket to Launch Satellite Try Historic Landing Tonight Watch Live

Having a rocket's first stage return safely to Earth is part Space Exploration Technologies strategy to reduce launch costs and win market share.

The descent was heralded in dramatic fashion by loud sonic booms that rumbled across Southern California as the rocket homed in on its landing pad.

The notoriously foggy launch site provided a rare clear day for the private aerospace company; the only visible clouds were those formed by gaseous liquid oxygen bleeding off from the vehicle itself, according to SpaceX engineer Tom Praderio.

SpaceX launches of larger payloads use more fuel, so typically touch down on the drone ships at sea, though landings on solid ground reduce turnaround times for the booster rockets.

Ahead of the launch, officials issued warnings to residents about the possibility of sonic booms. Prior landings have taken place on the East Coast.

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But as always, the landing was a secondary objective.

Saocom-1A is a 3,000-kilogram synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite for the Argentine space agency CONAE that was contracted in 2009 for a launch in 2012. Most likely this is related to the SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket which launched around 7:30 p.m. The second satellite will be SAOCOM 1B. Land-based booster recovery requires more fuel to make it back to dry land. LZ-4 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 4W, from which Titan rockets were previously launched. Nearing the top of the discernible atmosphere, the booster fired the engines again to slow down for re-entry.

Plenty of eyewitnesses took to Twitter and Facebook to post videos showing the rocket speeding into space, and the incredibly bright light it beamed back against the clouds of smoke definitely gave them reason to be concerned.

SAOCOM 1A 3,000-kilogram satellite built by INVAP and this deployment was done in conjunction with Argentina's space agency with the objective of radar-imaging the earth.

Shortly afterward SpaceX confirmed that SAOCOM 1A had been successfully deployed in record time.

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