SpaceX Iridium Launch from West Los Angeles

On Friday night, December 22nd, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 with 10 Iridium satellites aboard from Vandenburg Air Force Base near Lompoc. We watched the initial lift off on YouTube, and my wife went outside to look for the rocket. I’ve seen rocket trails before but was not prepared for the sight we saw that night. It first appeared as a short, red flare-like glowing spot, moving quickly up into the sky. My photos of the early appearance did not turn out. As it got higher in the sky it became much more impressive.

Here is the rocket still boosting on the first stage. Changes in the atmosphere probably account for the changing density of the plume.

I took this short video which, as best as I can guess, covers stage separation and the initial boost back of first stage.

This next shot is after main engine cut off and stage separation. The bright spot on the left is the boosting second stage on its way to orbit. The bright spot just behind it is the first stage. And the plume is looking pretty interesting.

This next shot has the crescent Moon, the boosting second stage, and the descending first stage. If I remember correctly, they did a mock landing of the first stage with no drone ship.

The dissipating cloud looks vaguely like a dragon in the sky.