Falcon 9 Launches Argentine Satellite, Lands First Stage at Vandenberg

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SpaceX PR) — On Sunday, October 7 at 7:21 p.m. PDT, SpaceX successfully 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. You can watch a replay of the launch webcast below and find out more about the mission in our press kit.

  • Malatrope

    Does anyone know what the 4-piece structure is next to the landing circle, center-rightish in this picture?

    https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-10-07-145541.jpg

    I was wondering if it might have anything to do with SpaceX’s stated claim that they would like to capture the rocket with a fixture upon landing, so as to eliminate the weight of the landing legs.

  • duheagle

    Looks about the right size for the job, but I have seen no definite info to that effect. I have seen other commenters on other sites pose the same question.

  • Malatrope

    Interesting…

  • Zed_WEASEL

    It is a stand to support the booster core after landing. The legs on the core is not designed to support the core’s weight for a prolong period. A giant crane lifts the core onto the stand after the landing.

    SpaceX also uses the stand if they are removing the legs.

    Something like what is in the picture is always present when a Falcon 9 debarks from an ASDS barge and at the landing facility in Florida.

  • duheagle

    Looks like Zed_WEASEL is almost certainly right. Upon re-examination, I don’t think that thing would be safe to land on as it is beyond the perimeter of the landing pad itself. That wouldn’t be the case if it was for landing on.

    The legs on the Block 5 are designed to be folded back up, as opposed to removed, post-landing. But a stand is required to enable either operation.

    I don’t think Zed is right about the inability of the landing legs to support an empty booster for long periods, though. The first Falcon 5 booster ever successfully landed has been standing on its legs at the southeast corner of the SpaceX plant in Hawthorne for over two years and counting. And those are the old-style legs.

  • Malatrope

    Thank you. That answers my questions about it, though I think duheagle may be correct about long term storage. It makes perfect sense that they would put it on a stand for inspection and subsequent movement.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I expect those legs are probably reinforced somehow to keep it standing as a museum piece.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    The legs on of the Falcon 9 got a frangible honeycomb aluminium core that is use like a shock absorber in addition to the telescopic Helium gas inflated cylinders. Those cylinders are usually vented after the core is placed on the stand for safety reasons.

    The Falcon 9 on display at Hawthorne have additional supports bolted directly into the concrete pad. The legs are not supporting the core.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Landing without legs is only possible (and will only be attempted) on BFR due to supplemental ACS and guide vanes to engage the cradle. Would be near impossible to land on launch lugs without a guide vanes to take up slop.

  • WhoAmI

    First launch I’ve ever seen up close. It was amazing and the sonic booms from landing were deafening.

  • WhoAmI