Space

December 29, 2017
 

SpaceX launch sparks UFO sightings

Tags:
Peter W. Merlin
special to Aerotech News

Photograph by Peter W. Merlin

An early evening liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Dec. 22 produced a spectacular aerial display that stopped traffic throughout much of Southern California and prompted many UFO sighting reports to emergency services officials and news agencies.

Ordinary citizens and celebrities from Santa Barbara to San Diego took to the phones and social media to express wonder and concern as the rocket headed downrange, shedding its first stage and a nose fairing that protects the payload within Earth’s atmosphere.

Santa Monica resident Frances Tracy-Black was driving on Interstate 10 when she noticed the expanding rocket plume.

“Drivers all around me slowed to a crawl to watch it,” she said, adding that people started pulling over and getting out of their vehicles to watch and film the phenomenon. “It was wild,” she said, “I’ve never seen anything like it!” Another woman reported that her young daughter thought it was Santa Claus.

The reaction promoted both the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department to issue public statements assuring panicked citizens that there was no cause for alarm. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk didn’t exactly help matters when he posted on Twitter, “It was definitely aliens,” later posting a video of the launch with the caption, “Nuclear alien UFO from North Korea.”

In fact, the glowing vapor trails in the western sky just after sunset heralded the launch and deployment of the fourth set of 10 Iridium NEXT communications satellites. SpaceX launched three earlier sets of satellites for Iridium Communications in January, June and October as part of a $492 million contract. When completed, the constellation will ultimately comprise 81 spacecraft equipped with the Certus next-generation communications platform as well as the Aireon aircraft tracking and surveillance system.

“In an historic first, this system will provide air traffic control organizations and aircraft operators that purchase the service with a real-time, global visibility of ADS-B equipped aircraft,” according to SpaceX.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines – July 18, 2018

News Revealed: Nnew structure for Pentagon’s tech, acquisition offices – Here are the details of a major restructuring for the two Pentagon offices that determine how the Defense Department buys and develops weapon systems.   NSA, Cyber Command to coordinate actions to counter Russian election interference in 2018 amid absence of White House guidance –...
 
 

News Briefs – July 18, 2018

Massive turbine must be replaced on USS Michael Monsoor The second of three stealthy destroyers is going to have one of its massive turbines replaced. Rear Adm. William Galinis tells the U.S. Naval Institute that a Roll Royce turbine must be replaced before Michael Monsoor can travel to San Diego. Galinis said testing indicates turbine...
 
 
Navy photograph by PO3 Cat Campbell

USS Gerald R. Ford successfully sails into post-shakedown availability period

Navy photograph by PO3 Cat Campbell Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) Chief’s Mess conduct colors on the ship’s flight deck in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the...