A mix of military and commercial rocketeering took place at Vandenberg Space Force Base over the past two days. On Sunday morning, an Interceptor missile shot off in the morning, a prototype for a new two- or three-stage ground-based rocket tested by the Missile Defense Agency. Then, after nightfall on Monday, a deep-throated, coughing roar could be heard in Santa Barbara, announcing the takeoff of a Falcon 9 from Vandenberg, the latest to launch by SpaceX.
Sunday’s Interceptor flight was a test of the U.S. Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System. It successfully fired the first and second stages of the rocket, called an Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, leaving the third booster unignited. The multiple stages and unfired portion gives the system more latitude in choice of targeting for high-speed collision, according to Defense News. The system is designed to protect against possible intercontinental strikes from Iran or North Korea, the publication stated.
The SpaceX launch set off in a heavy fog on Monday night, sending up a set of 51 satellites for Starlink, a subsidiary of SpaceX that provides internet coverage worldwide. In total, the company has put 1,791 of these satellites into orbit. The launch reused a Falcon 9 rocket a second time in the deployment, for the enterprise’s 10th successful touchdown on a sea-based drone ship named the “Of Course I Still Love You,” a reference, fans say, to SpaceX owner Elon Musk’s love of sci-fi and Iain Banks’s Culture books.