About 8 minutes after liftoff, the rocket's first stage returned and landed at Vandenberg in a first for a California-based SpaceX launch. The SAOCOM-1 mission marked the first time that the company had completed a successful landing of a Falcon 9's first stage back near the launch site - at its West Coast launch site.
"Local residents may see the first stage of the Falcon 9 returning to Vandenberg AFB, including multiple engine burns associated with the landing", the Air Force said on its website. Previous rocket landings had taken place on the East Coast.
By that year the launch had slipped to 2014, and would continue to slip further as Falcon 9 explosions in 2015 and 2016 compounded earlier delays. The satellite carries an active instrument consisting of a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), which works in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum, particularly the L-band. The booster first saw action back in July, delivering 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites into orbit. Most likely this is related to the SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket which launched around 7:30 p.m. It was a planned launch by Hawthorne-based SpaceX. But a successful landing would mean the company would no longer have to rely only on its drone ship for post-launch landings, according to Wired. This facility, which SpaceX leases from the Air Force, used to feature two launch pads, known as SLC-4 East and SLC-4 West. SpaceX has converted the western one into a landing site and launches Falcon 9s from the eastern one.
That almost identical satellite will launch in "the near future", also on a Falcon 9, according to the mission narrator for the Saocom-1A webcast.
SpaceX has a second CONAE satellite, Saocom-1B, that it is also tasked with launching.