SpaceX has been anxiously waiting for the right time to resume rocket launches since the unexpected explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket in mid-September during ground preparations. That date might be January 8th, a new report says, assuming everything goes according to plan.
SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 should transport the first 10 of 70 next-gen communications satellites for Iridium. The satellites will all be shipped with the help of SpaceX between now and early 2018, and are supposed to replace the aging fleet of Iridium satellites that are already in low-orbit.
Iridium provides voice and data services worldwide, The Wall Street Journal notes, but the upcoming satellites will also include navigation and tracking technology that can help airlines and air-traffic controllers monitor aircraft traffic in regions that lack ground-based radar coverage.
SpaceX, meanwhile, has a backlog of $10 billion in launch contracts and needs to get back to launches as soon as possible to show partners and the government that it’s able to fix problems and move on with operations.
SpaceX partnered with NASA, the FAA, and the US Air Force to determine the cause of the explosion. The Journal notes that it’s up to the company to determine the cause of the blast, while the FAA has the authority to accept the final report and issue new launch licenses.
Falcon 9’s return to the sky has been postponed twice already, from mid-November to mid-December and then to early January, as investigators wrapped up their probe into the explosion. Apparently, pressure and temperature issues that appeared during refueling caused the explosion, and SpaceX has been taking measures to prevent such accidents from happening in the future.
SpaceX discovered that loading helium into the rocket at certain pressure and temperature could lead to the formation of solid oxygen, which can then interact with the layers of carbon-fiber that are wrapped around helium vessels, and lead to ignition. Should all that be fixed, we might see a new Falcon 9 launch this coming Sunday.