SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has a launch date, as Elon Musk’s space travel company announced this week that it has gotten the green light to resume rocket launches on Monday, January 9.
The U.S. government gave the thumbs-up to SpaceX on Friday, as the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has accepted the findings from the company’s investigation into the Falcon 9 rocket explosion from September of 2016, said Florida Today in a report. The September 1 explosion, which took place during a countdown test, was an unexpected event for SpaceX, a setback that had many questioning when the company would be able to resume its Falcon 9 rocket launches. But with the date set and tests from earlier this week having gone off without a hitch, it’s all-systems-go for SpaceX come Monday.
SpaceX posted a timeline for its investigation on its official website titled “Anomaly Updates,” and on January 2, the company stated that it had spotted multiple causes that may have made the composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) on the rocket fail, thus leading to the September explosion. To prevent future events from happening, SpaceX will be loading oxygen at a warmer temperature and reconfiguring the Falcon 9’s helium tanks.
“The investigation team identified several credible causes for the COPV failure, all of which involve accumulation of super chilled LOX (liquid oxygen) or SOX (solid oxygen) in buckles under the overwrap. The corrective actions address all credible causes and focus on changes which avoid the conditions that led to these credible causes.”
SpaceX had run a few tests on Thursday, fueling the Falcon 9 and briefly firing its nine main engines. This was the same pre-launch test that was being run in September when the explosion took place. The Falcon 9 rocket set for launch on Monday will be carrying ten Iridium Communications satellites and is expected to lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 1:22 p.m. ET.
Iridium Chief Executive Matt Desch issued a prepared statement on Friday, further confirming that it’s only a matter of time before SpaceX resumes its Falcon 9 launches.
“With completion of the static fire test, our first launch has just gotten that much closer. The Iridium team has been anxiously awaiting launch day, and we’re now all the more excited to send those first ten Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit.”
If there’s a possible spanner in the works on the newly-confirmed Falcon 9 launch date, it may likely be inclement weather. Wired wrote that the launch date had actually been postponed to Monday as a result of weather problems, and starting today, California will likely be “drenched by an invisible, incredibly moist tendril of air extending from the tropics” – an atmospheric river, in weather parlance. This may result in at least a foot of rain drenching low-lying parts of California and may serve as a proverbial last-minute hitch, due to heavy rains making for unfavorable rocket launch conditions. And for SpaceX, the stakes are incredibly high in the run-up to Monday’s launch.
“Another failure would be very bad for SpaceX, because although the company still has a few years worth of launches on the books, it will have a hard time selling future customers on its safety record with a pair of back-to-back launchpad mishaps,” wrote Wired.
If all goes according to plan, the Falcon 9 launch on Monday will mark the first out of 70 Iridium satellite launches SpaceX is contracted to conduct. The company is also hoping to perform its first-ever launch from the Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A, with January 26 having been mooted as the Falcon 9’s next launch date. Should that push forward, the Falcon 9 will be carrying a commercial communications satellite and may also launch cargo to the International Space Station on February 8.
[Featured Image by Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images]