SpaceX launches Earth-observation satellite for Argentina, nails rocket landing

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It was a rare polar launch from Florida, the first since 1969.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the SAOCOM 1B Earth-observation radar satellite for Argentina and two small rideshare payloads launches into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Aug. 30, 2020.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX successfully launched an Earth-observation satellite for Argentina along with two small piggyback satellites today (Aug. 30).

The trio blasted off from Space Launch Complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 7:18 p.m. EDT (2318 GMT).

A used two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carried the SAOCOM-1B satellite aloft, marking the company's 15th launch of 2020. Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, the booster's first stage produced some dramatic sonic booms as it made its way back to terra firma, touching down at SpaceX's Landing Zone-1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral.

Related: See the evolution of SpaceX's rockets in pictures

Image 1 of 4 The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket first stage is seen back on Earth for a touchdown at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida after successfully launching Argentina's SAOCOM-1 Earth observation satellite on Aug. 30, 2020. (Image credit: SpaceX) Image 2 of 4 (Image credit: SpaceX) Image 3 of 4 (Image credit: SpaceX) Image 4 of 4 (Image credit: SpaceX)

Today's flight was the fourth launch for this particular Falcon 9 first stage. The booster, designated B1059, previously lofted two commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station for NASA and delivered a batch of SpaceX Starlink satellites into orbit earlier this year.

The Falcon 9 appeared to launch straight up as it climbed to orbit. The skies above the space coast were cloudy but you could hear the Falcon 9 long after it was out of sight.

Thick clouds made it hard to track the first stage on its downward trek. Suddenly it appeared in the sky, with the iconic sonic booms you expect cracking overhead as the booster descended to the landing site.

SAOCOM-1B deployed from the Falcon 9's upper stage as planned…
Amy Thompson
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