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Midnight SpaceX launch was a success. Falcon 9 returned to pad

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Midnight SpaceX launch … success

After repeated delays, SpaceX’s Transporter-7 mission lifted off via a Falcon 9, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in Santa Barbara County, California. Liftoff occurred at 11:48 p.m. PT on Friday April 14, 2023 (06:48 UTC on Saturday, April 15).

The first stage of the Falcon 9 – which carried 51 satellites to orbit – returned to Earth as planned and made a vertical touchdown at Vandenberg about 7 minutes and 45 seconds after launch. Find a SpaceX mission description here.

The launch was expected to be visible in skies up to 300 miles (480 km) from the launch site, that is, from San Francisco to Los Angeles and beyond.

A Falcon 9 carried 51 satellites to orbit

The cargo of dozens of small satellites sharing the ride aboard SpaceX’s trusty Falcon 9 lift vehicle were part of a SpaceX rideshare mission. According to SpaceX:

Transporter-7 is SpaceX’s 7th dedicated smallsat rideshare mission. There will be 51 payloads on this flight, including CubeSats, MicroSats, hosted payloads, and orbital transfer vehicles carrying spacecraft to be deployed at a later time.

The Falcon 9 boosted the payload to a sun-synchronous orbit (an orbit that allows it to maintain a single relationship to the sun; this sort of orbit is useful for imaging, reconnaissance, and weather satellites, because every time that the satellite is overhead, the surface illumination angle on the planet underneath it is nearly the same).

Launch visible over much of California

The midnight launch was supposed to be visible for more than 300 miles (480 km) from the launch site. So said the Space Archive – which offers a detailed explanation – but they cautioned the stars must align for good long-distance viewing:

The visibility of rockets and missiles launched from Vandenberg AFB varies greatly. Some launches are difficult to see from relatively short distances while others are visible for several hundred miles. There are four primary factors affecting visibility: vehicle trajectory, lighting conditions, launch vehicle type (and) atmospheric transparency.

Back in 2018, Lady Luck let people as far north as Humboldt County, California get a peek. That’s a 450 miles (725 km) long shot.

Bottom line: Success for the midnight launch of a SpaceX rocket on April 14-15, 2023. The launch – from California – was expected to be visible from San Francisco to Los Angeles and beyond.

April 15, 2023
Human World

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