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In California skies, more rockets' silken glare



s SpaceX and other companies use the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch hub near Los Angeles more

After sundown on Oct. 7, many people in Southern California looking up and spotting the red glare of a rocket. Mara Altman was at a farm out of San Diego. A mariachi band was playing when the guests saw the rocket. "I had no idea," she said. "People were like mesmerized."

The trumpet player took his instrument and took his phone out to record the rocket's flight.

The Rocket that day.

The rocket that day.

The rocket that day.

The rocket that day , a Falcon 9 built by SpaceX, which carries on Argentine satellite into space. It was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, 1

40 miles northwest of Los Angeles. As SpaceX quickens its launching pace, more of its rockets will blast off the California launchpad.

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If you were close enough, you might have enjoyed a double spectacle when the rocket's booster stage returned a few minutes later to land at Vandenberg, the first time that SpaceX had achieved that feat on the West Coast ,

In addition to producing bright flames from its engines, a rocket leaves hides a trail from its exhaust, which forms a condensation trail

When the launch is near sunrise or sunset – the sky is still bright – sunlight glistens off the contrails, adding to it the splendor.

Vandenberg Air Force Base served as the center of development and testing of ballistic missiles in the 1960s and 1970s. Later, rockets carrying military missiles satellites blasted off from there. With a swath of open ocean to the south of Vandenberg, the site is ideal for launching spacecraft on orbits.

In the 1980s, the West Coast was set to observe the sky-rattling rumble of the space shuttles , which were originally intended to take over the launching of military satellites in addition to their NASA missions. The Air Force is preparing a launch site, and the prototype Enterprise orbiter is making a trip out of the facilities. But after the loss of Challenger in 1986, the Air Force decided that traditional crewless rockets were better and safer, and no shots ever launched from Vandenberg.

In recent years, commercial companies have taken over some of the launchpads. SpaceX leased Launch Complex 4, previously used for Air Force Atlas and Titan rockets. The company launched the first Falcon 9 from Vandenberg in 2013.

There have been 11 launches so far this year from Vandenberg, five of them by SpaceX. Over the decades, the number of launches has been declining, from more than 900 in the 1960s to 79 so far this decade. With almost three months left in 2018, SpaceX has already launched as many rockets as they did in 2017.

In addition to SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Harris are leasing space at Vandenberg from the Air Force. Vandenberg launchpad for future commercial endeavors.

But the most dramatic displays can not be repeated. Altman probably does not go out of his way to watch another rocket go by.

"It was cool," she said. "It just looked like two headlights separating."


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