A rocket goes up, a rocket comes down. The photos are something else

Trevor Mahlmann/Special to Ars

In some respects, Sunday night's launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was nothing special. After all, SpaceX has launched 35 rockets in just the last 21 months. This rocket had already been launched once before as well, back in July, from this very launch pad. And sending a three-ton payload to Sun-synchronous orbit some 600km above the planet is hardly revolutionary.

But in some ways, the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket was pretty darn awesome. For one, skies at the notoriously fogged-in launch site along the central California coast are rarely crystal clear for a launch. (They were Sunday night). Moreover, SpaceX landed a rocket at its new Landing Zone 4 on the coast for the first time that night.

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