Scope Diagram Astrocamera.Net - Astrophotography by Dave Kodama

Launch & Booster Landing


On November 21, SpaceX launched the Sentinel-6 satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Fog often threatens viewing of morning launches, but in this case, only high clouds were in the sky and they fortuitously moved out of the way to give a clear view of the launch and return of the booster to the landing pad near the launch site.

A long line of cars could be seen along Ocean Avenue, which bisects Vandenberg AFB, so we opted to view the launch from the edge of the town of Lompoc, putting us about 8 miles from the launch pad. Unfortunately this location (as is the case of all nearby publicly accessible viewing areas) has its view of the launch and landing pads obstructed by low hills.

Falcon 9 and Sentinel-6 approach the edge of the atmosphere...  

This composite image (sequence runs right to left) shows the moments after stage separation and second stage ignition, and maneuvering of the first stage booster for its return to the launch site.  
Launch and booster landing composite view. Click on the image above for a labeled full-sized view.

The landing of the Falcon 9 booster was a bonus touch. From our location the sonic boom and rocket roar could be heard very loudly, several seconds after the booster disappeared behind the hills and had actually landed.