by Chris Tobias
SpaceX plans to launch the SAOCOM-1A satellite this weekend from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with liftoff currently scheduled for 10:21 PM EST (2:21 UTC) on Sunday, October 7 from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E).
This weekend’s launch will feature the same Falcon 9 Block 5 first stage that launched Iridium NEXT 7, and will be just the second time that a Block 5 Falcon 9 core has been reflown. The payload, the SAOCOM-1A satellite, will be delivered to a Sun-Synchronous Orbit, where it will be part of a six-satellite constellation that CONAE (the Argentine space agency) will use to image the Earth in conjunction with the Italian COSMO-SkyMed satellite constellation.
What makes this launch particularly interesting is that the Falcon 9’s first stage will return to the launch site at Vandenberg AFB to land, which will make it the first RTLS (Return to Launch Site) landing on the West Coast. All of SpaceX’s previous RTLS landings have been conducted at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Falcon 9 first stage that is being reflown for this mission previously landed at sea aboard SpaceX’s drone ship Just Read the Instructions during the Iridium NEXT 7 mission back in July.
Peace, love and rockets…