On Saturday, SpaceX announced it had conducted a static fire test at Vandenberg, one key step toward clearing the way for the launch to occur. The test involves counting down to zero and firing the engines, with the rocket remaining in place.
The Falcon rocket’s mission involves putting three identical Earth-observation satellites into orbit for the Canadian Space Agency.
The Radarsat Continuity Mission builds up on data collected by two earlier Earth-observation satellites, one of which blasted off from Vandenberg in 1995.
The newest Radarsat mission will collect 250,000 images annually, 50 times more than the first-generation satellite.
“As most of you know, Canada has the longest, largest coastline in the world and it’s the second largest land mass in the world,” said Magdalena Wierus, project engineer for the Radarsat mission.
Wednesday’s mission will place into orbit three identical Earth-observation satellites from the Canadian Space Agency. (Canadian Space Agency photo)
“With our local population density and large remote areas with varied geography, space-based EO (Earth observation) is a natural choice for monitoring our assets.”
Data will help in monitoring assorted industries, including agriculture, forestry, mining and oil.
But the true purpose of the launch may get overshadowed.
Vandenberg officials confirmed that in addition to the rocket’s launch, SpaceX plans for the first-stage booster to return to touch down at Landing Zone 4. That site is the former Space Launch Complex-4 West, previously the Titan II rocket pad, just west of Falcon’s launch site.
Wednesday’s flyback mission could create a show seen and heard on the Central Coast, Vandenberg officials advised.
“Local residents may see the first stage of the Falcon 9 returning to Vandenberg AFB, including multiple engine burns associated with the landing,” base officials said.
“During the landing attempt, residents from Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties may hear one or more sonic booms.”
A sonic boom is the sound stemming from shock waves created when an aircraft or vehicle travels faster than the speed of sound.
“Sonic booms generate a sound similar to an explosion or a clap of thunder,” officials said. “The sonic boom experienced will depend on weather conditions and other factors.”
Of course, just what spectators will see of the rocket launch and landing will depend upon Mother Nature and her morning marine layer, which has been hampering views on the Central Coast.