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Sonic booms expected when SpaceX lands Falcon 9 booster back at Cape Canaveral

In this file photo, SpaceX lands the first stage of a Falcon 9 booster at LZ-1, located on Cape Canaveral. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX is set to launch a Falcon 9 rocket Thursday from Florida’s Space Coast with a scheduled booster landing back at Cape Canaveral, which means there could be sonic booms heard in the area.

As the first stage of the Falcon 9 booster plummets back to Earth just under 10 minutes after launch, it creates shockwaves that make a thunderous sonic boom — which can be heard across Central Florida depending on weather conditions.

Usually SpaceX lands its Falcon 9 booster out at sea. But for this launch of a handful of commercial and scientific payloads, the company is directing the rocket booster back to Cape Canaveral.

Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 45 is responsible for ensuring the public safety along Florida’s Space Coast. “Our SLD 45 safety team runs a series of analyses that lead us to understand what if any evacuations are required on the Cape in so that our people can be safe as that booster comes in,” said Lt. Col. Brian Eno, Commander of the 1st Range Operations Squadron.

“It certainly looks like it’s coming back on top of you until very late in its its descent before you really get a visual of just where it is landing,” he said.

The mission will launch southward, a departure from usual eastward launches. It’s the second of a planned five polar launches heading southward just this month. While there weren’t any issues with wayward boats or planes for a launch last week, SLD 45 is asking boaters and pilots to continue to pay attention to new hazard areas issued for this launch. “These trajectories are different,” said Eno. “We must make sure that we’re vigilant as a community on reviewing those notices.

SpaceX’s Transporter-3 mission has a 29-minute launch window which opens Thursday at 10:25 a.m. ET. Space Force forecasters said there’s a 70 percent chance of favorable launch weather.

The private space company routinely lands the first stage booster of its Falcon 9 rocket and reuses it for future launches, lowering the cost of access to space.

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »