SpaceX Cause UFO Hysteria with Iridium-4 Launch

SpaceX successfully launched an additional 10 Iridium satellites aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket on December 23 at 01:27 GMT (17:27 PST on Dec. 22). Although the launch was completed without incident, a light show caused by the exhaust fumes of the rocket caused a brief UFO-sighting buzz on Twitter.

Saturday’s Iridium-4 launch completes the fourth of eight Falcon 9 launches contracted by communications provider Iridium.

“Today’s launch is an incredible milestone — we have officially reached the halfway point,” said Matt Desch, the chief executive officer for Iridium. “With over half of the new constellation now in orbit, momentum around the testing of our new broadband service, Iridium CertusSM, will continue to progress quickly. I know our customers are very excited about our expanding capabilities.”

The launch was the first of two Iridium launches to make use of a flight-proven first stage booster. The booster used in Saturday’s launch was last used for the company’s Iridium-2 mission. SpaceX opted not to recover the first-stage booster from the Iridium-4 launch. SpaceX cryptically explained that booster recoveries are made on “case-by-case decisions and are based on mission requirements and the needs of our manifest,” in justification.

Iridium-4 Launch UFO Hysteria

Following the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, observers up and down the Pacific coast reported a streak of light across the early evening sky. Although it was quickly confirmed to have been caused by the launch of the rocket, many (either in jest or not) attributed the light show to aliens/UFOs.

The actual cause of the light show was a spectacularly well-timed sequence of events. Although on the ground it appears the sun has already set, in the upper atmosphere the sun was still shining brightly. That sunlight was reflected off the Falcon 9’s expanding exhaust fumes creating the phenomenon reported by observers.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk seemed to initially enjoy the UFO hysteria around the company’s Iridium-4 launch. However, following #Aliens going viral Musk expressed his disappointment with the public’s reaction in a series of tweets.

Image Credit: SpaceX

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.