Many on the Central Coast received an early-morning wake-up courtesy of SpaceX on Thursday, as a Falcon 9 rocket roared from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the company's first West Coast launch of the year.
The launch, which had been delayed three times since Feb. 17, went off as scheduled at 6:17 a.m. Thursday from VAFB's Space Launch Complex-4. The Falcon 9's loud boom caused windows and buildings to shake throughout the Lompoc Valley as it burned brightly in the pre-dawn sky.
The launch's primary mission was to send into orbit the PAZ satellite for the Spanish government. The satellite was developed by Airbus, a commercial aircraft manufacturer, and HISDESAT, a Spanish government satellite services operator that deals primarily in the areas of defense, security, intelligence and foreign affairs.
About 15 minutes after the launch, SpaceX tweeted: "Successful deployment of PAZ satellite to low-Earth orbit confirmed."
PAZ, which is Spanish for “peace,” included a radar-imaging payload to collect views of Earth to “address civilian needs with multiple applications,” according to HISDESAT's website. It is Spain's first radar satellite.
Also aboard the rocket was SpaceX's first demonstration satellites for its satellite broadband internet service, which the company is testing ahead of a full-scale constellation launch. SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday morning that "If successful, (the) Starlink constellation will serve least served."
The first-stage booster of the Falcon 9 launched Thursday was reused from a previous SpaceX launch.
Col. Greg Wood, vice commander of the 30th Space Wing at VAFB, was the space launch commander.
"This launch was a testament to the hard work of Team Vandenberg, SpaceX and Spain," Wood said. "I am proud of everyone involved that continues to pave the way for our nation's access to space."
The launch was the second of the year so far from VAFB, and the first by SpaceX. A Delta IV rocket, provided by United Launch Alliance, blasted off from the base Jan. 12 carrying a secret payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.