SpaceX is gearing up for a launch and landing on the West Coast this weekend
Just after 5pm EDT on Tuesday, SpaceX tweeted out that they had a successful static fire of their Falcon 9 rocket for the launch of SAOCOM 1A spacecraft this weekend. Currently SpaceX is targeting a launch time of 7:21pm PDT (10:21pm EDT) Sunday night from Space Launch Complex 4 West (SLC-4W) at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB).
After liftoff and first stage separation, the flight-proven first stage will flip around and fly back toward the VAFB and attempt the first "Return to Launch Site" landing on the West Coast. The new landing pad, similar in looks, is located just next to (about a quarter mile) the launch pad, unlike the landing zones on the cape, which are located several miles away from the launch site. They plan on recovering and reusing this booster a third time if the landing is successful - this booster was last flown on the Iridium-7 mission which launched on July 25th of this year. They will also be attempting to recover the fairings which are located at the top of the rocket and protect the payload during its flight through the atmosphere. They intend to do this with a large boat with even larger arms that stretch out a net to maneuver around and catch them just before they would normally impact with the water. The fairings are controlled by cold gas thrusters and then using a parafoil to guide it through the atmosphere.
The purpose of the SAOCOM 1A satellite is to scan the Earth and bring day and night weather imagery and cut through the clouds so they aren't obscuring the weather activity occurring below.