The Falcon's first stage will then fly back to Vandenberg and set down in a landing zone on the coastal base.
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch on Sunday evening.
Two minutes later, the second stage engine shut down as planned and two-and-a-half minutes after that, the SAOCOM 1A satellite was released into the planned polar orbit.
The success achieved in the safe return of the first stage is significant for SpaceX as the company is looking at a reduction in launch cost through such measures.
The hype surrounding the latest SpaceX rocket apparently hadn't reached some Californians, who mistook the separation of the Falcon 9 rocket as an otherworldly event. Once again, the light is from a SpaceX launch.
SAOCOM 1A carries a high-resolution instrument called a synthetic aperature radar that will be used for emergency management during disasters and for land monitoring.
Both the launch and landing took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Air Force said before the 7:22 p.m. launch that it expected that people as far away as Sacramento and Southern California would see the rocket's contrail.
Saocom-1A has an L-band payload created to study soil moisture for agriculture, disaster monitoring and scientific research.
The SAOCOM launch marks SpaceX's 17th launch of the year.
SpaceX has pioneered the use of reusable rockets to launch satellites into space.
The launch lit up the sky across San Diego and locals flooded KSWB with photos and questions about what they'd just seen overhead.
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