Falcon 9 in flight
The SpaceX Falcon 9 seconds into its successful flight. Courtesy SpaceX

The launch of a SpaceX rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base on Thursday was visible from San Diego, but didn’t create the spectacular light show of a night launch in December.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 6:17 a.m. from the base near Santa Barbara. Its contrail was visible from parts of San Diego.

The rocket’s primary payload is the Spanish government Paz satellite, but documents filed with the federal government indicate the rocket will also be deploying a pair of demonstration satellites that are part of SpaceX-founder Elon Musk’s vision to create a space-based broadband network providing worldwide affordable internet access.

According to a communication between SpaceX and the Federal Communications Commission, the mission will deploy satellites known as Microsat- 2a and Microsat-2b. Those satellites were described by the company in an earlier license application as part of a test of a “broadband antenna communications platform.”

Documents cited in media reports identify the satellites as part of a SpaceX program known as “Starlink,” which envisions an array of nearly 12,000 satellites circling Earth within about six years, creating a worldwide internet system.

A December launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg created an evening visual spectacle over Southern California, with thousands of people snapping photos of the light show and posting them online, with some even suggesting it was an alien invasion.

The Falcon 9 rocket in Thursday’s mission was previously used in an August launch, then successfully recovered for use in future missions. SpaceX, which has been perfecting the system of recovering rockets to reduce mission costs, will not attempt to recover the rocket again Thursday.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.