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 – January 22, 2018

News Two dead after Army Apache helo crashes – A U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter crashed early morning Jan. 20 in California, killing two soldiers, a spokesman for the Army said.   China’s top paper says U.S. forcing China to accelerate South China Sea deployments – China’s top newspaper, decrying Washington as a trouble-maker, said...
 
 

News Briefs – January 22, 2018

U.S. competitive warfighting edge has slipped, says Mattis Countering China’s rapidly expanding military and an increasingly aggressive Russia are now the U.S. military’s top national security priorities. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says they are even outpacing the threat of terrorism. He said Friday that competition with those adversaries has threatened America’s military ad...
 
 
NASA photograph by Ken Ulrich

NASA tests new alloy to fold wings in flight

NASA has successfully applied a new technology in flight that allows aircraft to fold their wings to different angles while in the air. The recent flight series, which took place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in ...