Watch SpaceX's first West Coast ground landing at 10:21PM ET

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At the time, the launch was scheduled to occur from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean where SpaceX launched the now retired Falcon 1. "We're all very excited".

The booster put on a spectacular show as it descended tail first toward Landing Zone 4 just a few hundred yards from the rocket's launch stand, deploying four legs and firing up one of its nine Merlin engines, seemingly at the last moment, to slow down for touchdown in a cloud of fiery exhaust. The rocket launched the SAOCOM 1A satellite into orbit and then the rocket landed back on the west coast.

But Sunday's flight marked the first time SpaceX attempted a landing at Vandenberg, a milestone made possible by extensive environmental and safety studies that concluded the noise and possible aftermath of a failure would not cause any significant damage or harm to area wildlife. The rocket plume is expected to be illuminated by the sun after the launch at 7:21 p.m. Sunday.

Proving out a successful booster retrieval system on the West Coast marks another step in SpaceX's drive to increase rocket reusability and as a result drive down the cost of access to space. It, too, found success in landing at a new site north of Los Angeles.

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As The Verge noted, SpaceX hasn't been making sea landings by choice. SpaceX has several other missions planned for this year, including the Falcon 9 launches of another 10 Iridium Next satellites, Es'hailSat's Es'hail-2, and the U.S. Air Force's first GPS-3 satellite.

The rocket will be carrying an Argentinian Earth-observing satellite, known as SAOCOM-1A, into orbit. It carries carries a high-resolution synthetic aperture radar to be used for emergency management and land monitoring, The Associated Press reported. The second satellite will be SAOCOM 1B.

"SAOCOM" is short for "Satélite Argentino de Observación Con Microondas", which is Spanish for "Argentine Microwave-Observation Satellite".

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