Rafael is a Le Bridge student at the University of California, Berkeley. He also is a student in Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Sao Paulo (USP). He arrived in California two months ago and through this article, shares with us one of his experience on the West Coast:

During my time in Berkeley, I have already had the opportunity to have some incredible experiences both at the University and around California. Undoubtedly amongst the most incredible ones was attending SpaceX’s most recent launch of the Falcon 9 Rocket, on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

Having always been an avid Aerospace field follower, I was so thrilled when a colleague from UC Berkeley invited me to watch a SpaceX launch! Knowing of SpaceX’s story of launches from Cape Canaveral (in Florida), I was considering if the invitation was for a quick trip to the other coast, or what exactly the plan was? When he told me that, in fact, this would be the first of their land launches from the West Coast, I could not believe it. We immediately organised ourselves to meet the following morning to rent a car, travel five and a half hours to near Los Angeles, and await the possibility that at 7:21 p.m. PDT. a rocket might soar to the skies right before our eyes.

From the moment the liftoff happened, it felt like there was a new Sun on the sky.

The next morning we were excited to start the trip. Granted there was a very real possibility that the launch just would not happen at all. Effectively, a significant percentage of rocket launches gets either delayed or canceled, and for our trip, we had just one shot. So we went, hopes up and backpacks packed, and exactly five hours and eighteen minutes later, to our absolute amazement, Falcon 9 launched, and the images show what we saw.

The SAOCOM 1A satellite was successfully launched from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E). The satellite was deployed about 12 minutes after liftoff. Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage returned to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4) at Vandenberg Air Force Base. LZ-4 is built on the former site of Space Launch Complex 4W, from which Titan rockets were previously launched.

From the moment the liftoff happened, it felt like there was a new Sun on the sky. But in this case, it was moving upwards, and very fast. As it achieved its destination up over our heads, we watched this magnificent cloud and pulsating beams of light coming from the events. And the show was not over. As this uses the latest SpaceX technology of returning first stages that incredibly land on their feet right back where they started from (to later be reused for a next flight, thus saving costs), we watched the whole trajectory back, that unveiled how the giant 50-meter tall booster essentially fell in a controlled fashion through the atmosphere to the X marking the landing site.

The whole experience was amazing. From the traveling and spending the day talking about Space discovery and how we’re pushing humanities barriers to arriving at one of the dozens of observation sites, where literally hundreds of fans gathered to watch the spectacle, to talking to some of those watchers or, as some of them call themselves, parts of the “SpaceX Family”, to witnessing what will certainly be a scene I’ll never forget, the whole experience was a surreal and incredible adventure. Watching this launch, and feeling like I’m part of this new “space-era” of the human kind is an experience I will forever hold dear to me, and it was only possible from being in this thriving part of the world, all around the Bay-Area and California which is just one of the reasons why the Le Bridge program has been a life-changing adventure.


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