Elon Musk's rocket company SpaceX launched a commercial satellite for Argentina on Sunday evening, marking SpaceX's 17th mission of 2018.
On Sunday, October 7 at 7:21 p.m. PDT, SpaceX launched the SAOCOM 1A satellite from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The satellite was deployed about 12 minutes after liftoff.
Following stage separation, Falcon 9's first stage returned to land at SpaceX's Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) at Vandenberg Air Force Base. This was SpaceX's first land landing on the West Coast.
LZ-4 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 4W, from which Titan rockets were previously launched.
The SAOCOM 1A satellite is operated by Argentina's Space Agency, the National Commission on Space Activities (CONAE). The satellite carries an active instrument consisting of a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which works in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum, articularly the L-band.
Having a rocket's first stage return safely to Earth is part Space Exploration Technologies's strategy to reduce launch costs and win market share. SpaceX already has recovered rocket boosters several times, both on land in Florida and on drone ships at sea.
SpaceX has a contract to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station as part of what's known as the "Commercial Crew" program with NASA, but the timeline for the first flights has slipped repeatedly.