Not a UFO – Falcon 9 rocket launch rewards sky-watchers

The Falcon 9 launch was plainly visible to anyone looking to the northwest after 7:30 p.m. Monday evening.

On Monday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time, a Falcon 9 rocket launched from Space Launch Complex 4 East (SLC- 4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base carrying 22 Starlink satel­lites to low-Earth orbit.

The launch, which was de­layed twice since last week, was viewed from multiple locations throughout Southern Califor­nia. In fact, its trajectory took the rocket almost directly over San Diego County.

Vandenberg Space Force Base is 287 miles from El Cajon.

Moments after launch the rocket could be seen gaining al­titude in the northwestern sky as viewed locally while sport­ing a frothy tail. The trajectory carried it almost overhead for viewers as it headed toward the southern horizon en route to orbit.

For those caught on the street without a camera, it was a chance to see something ex­traordinary played out live.

It was no April Fool’s joke.

For those who were able to get to a computer afterward, they could watch a replay of the entire launch sequence on the website. The curvature of the Earth could be seen from an on-board camera 1:28 into the flight as the rocket reached 25 km.

As the rocket passed Jupiter in the deep blue western sky, separation of the first stage oc­curred 2:35 into the flight at an altitude of 60 km at a speed of more than 7,700 km/hr. The staging event could clearly be seen even through the veil of trailing white vapor.

As the rocket continued south, it left a winding and colorful display of vapor in the upper atmosphere, brightly col­ored by the setting sun. Shades of pink, swirled into doughnut shapes, were visible in the sky 30 minutes after launch in the northern sky.

The satellite package reached orbit 8:50 into the flight at an altitude of 138 km at a speed of 27,340 km/hr.

This was the 15th flight for the first stage booster support­ing this mission, which pre­viously launched NROL-87, NROL-85, SARah-1, SWOT, Transporter-8, Transporter-9, and now nine Starlink missions.

Another satellite launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base is scheduled TBA this month.


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