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Mysterious sonic booms rattle the SoCal coast, and officials say expect more from SpaceX

Salvador Hernandez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — The house jolts and rumbles, and then there's the unmistakable boom that Mikayla Shocks has been hearing more and more frequently from her Camarillo home.

"One time, I thought a car hit my house," the mother of four said. "It's felt by everyone. We hear the boom. My dog freaks out."

It took a few such incidents and a bit of internet sleuthing before Shocks found the source: sonic booms from rockets launching from Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Space Force officials previously claimed such incidents were rare, and that sonic booms from rocket launches and landings had little effect on the coast.

But the U.S. Air Force now admits what thousands of residents, from Lompoc to Camarillo, have known for months — sonic booms from Vandenberg Space Base regularly rattle a large swath of Southern California, startling residents and wildlife across more than 100 miles of coastline.

The reach of the sonic booms across three Southern California counties was first revealed in a new report from the Air Force to the California Coastal Commission, which is reviewing the military's plan to significantly increase the number of rocket launches from the base.


Space Force officials say rockets from the base recently have been flying a different path, changing the area that's affected by sonic booms the rockets generate.

"Recent changes in flight trajectories have made sonic booms audible to individuals living in southern Santa Barbara, Ventura, or northern L.A. counties along the coast," Col. Mark Shoemaker, Space Launch Delta 30 commander, said in an email to The Times.

Previous models, environmental studies and reports from the U.S. Space Force suggested that sonic booms would be generated out at sea and over the Channel Islands, leaving the coast and most residents living far from the base unaffected.

That is not the case now.


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