A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich oceanography satellite. Credit: SpaceX
A European-built satellite with the unusual shape of a house launched into orbit Saturday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from California’s Central Coast, carrying a sophisticated radar altimeter to measure rising sea levels on our home planet.
The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich observation satellite lifted off at 9:17:08 a.m. PST (12:17:08 p.m. EST; 1717:08 GMT) Saturday from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base around 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles.
Flying toward the south-southeast, the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket hauled the satellite into orbit on SpaceX’s first mission from the West Coast launch site since June 2019.
Less than two-and-a-half minutes into the flight, the Falcon 9’s first stage booster detached and fired cold gas thrusters to flip around and fly tail first. A boost-back burn and entry burn by a subset of the rocket’s Merlin engines guided the Falcon 9 booster back toward Vandenberg.
The supersonic return maneuvers culminated in a landing burn by the rocket’s center engine. Four landing legs unfurled just before touchdown as the 15-story booster settled to a bullseye ...