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Wednesday SpaceX Rocket Launch, Return May Be Seen and Heard Around South Coast - Noozhawk

Falcon 9 poised to carry Canadian Space Agency mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base, with subsequent landing likely to cause sonic booms

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Three Radarsat Constellation Mission satellites undergo preparations for their Wednesday launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Canadian Space Agency photo)

By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor | @JaneneScully | June 8, 2019 | 7:57 p.m.

A Falcon 9 rocket delivering a satellite trio for Canada could create a visual and audio show as it blasts off and returns to land at Vandenberg Air Force Base on Wednesday morning.

Liftoff of the SpaceX rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 East on South Base is planned for 7:17 a.m. Wednesday after being delayed a day.

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.

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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.

This will be the second flyback mission to the launch site. SpaceX successfully returned a first-stage booster following an October blastoff.

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A Falcon 9 first-stage booster lands at Cape Canaveral, Fla., earlier this year. The same booster will be used for Wednesday’s launch and landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (SpaceX photo)

The booster blasting off Wednesday previously launched the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station in March from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

From the beginning, SpaceX has touted the reusability of its rockets with recycling key components intended to reduce costs and time between missions.

While access to Vandenberg is restricted, the public can view the launch from the Hawk’s Nest on Azalea Lane off of Highway 1, a mile south of Vandenberg’s main gate.

The viewing site will open at 6 a.m. and close after the conclusion of the landing of the first stage.

Other locations around the Lompoc Valley also offer views of the launch and landing site, which is visible when looking south of Ocean Avenue (Highway 246).

Popular viewing sites include along Ocean and Central avenues west of Lompoc, the peak of Harris Grade Road, and near the intersection of Moonglow and Stardust roads in Vandenberg Village.

However, law enforcement officers will establish a wider roadblock for this launch, which is expected to draw large crowds to the area.

A roadblock normally established at 13th Street on Ocean Avenue instead will be relocated to the east, at the intersection of Ocean and Floradale avenues.

A secondary roadblock will also be established at Floradale and Central avenues.

Drivers may see additional temporary traffic control measures implemented on local roadways to safely expedite expected traffic.

Personnel from Vandenberg have partnered with the Santa Barbara County sheriff’s and Lompoc police departments in an effort to ensure public safety surrounding the launch, base officials said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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