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 16, 2018

News Chinese spy ship eyes RIMPAC – China was disinvited from the prestigious Rim of the Pacific exercise, but it has made an appearance anyway — dispatching a spy ship to international waters off Hawaii, the Navy said July 12.     Business Pentagon reaches handshake deal with Lockheed on newest batch of F-35s –...
 
 

News Briefs – July 16, 2018

U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan; 2nd in 6 days One American service member was killed in combat in eastern Afghanistan on July 12, the U.S. military said. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Andrew Celiz, 32, of Summerville, S.C., died of wounds from enemy small arms fire. Celiz was based at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah,...
 
 
Army photograph by John Andrew Hamilton

Austin, Texas, to be U.S. Army Futures Command location, says Army

Austin, Texas, will be the location for the new headquarters of U.S. Army Futures Command, Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper announced July 13 at a Pentagon press briefing. Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy then e...