SpaceX has the all-clear to return its Falcon 9 rocket to flight next week after a four-month suspension due to a launch-pad explosion.
The go-ahead came in the form of a launch license issued today by the Federal Aviation Administration for SpaceX’s launch of 10 advanced Iridium Next telecommunication satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
That launch is currently set for 10:22 a.m. PT Monday, but the timing is dependent on the weather. (Update on Jan. 8: SpaceX has rescheduled its return to flight for Jan. 14 due to weather concerns; check the latest update.)
Also today, the FAA said it has accepted the results of SpaceX’s report on the loss of a Falcon 9 and its Amos-6 satellite payload on Sept. 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and “has closed the investigation.”
The Sept. 1 explosion occurred during a fueling test that was being conducted in preparation for liftoff. Earlier this week, SpaceX said it traced the blast to the failure of a helium pressure vessel that was sitting inside the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen propellant tank.
The company said liquid oxygen apparently pooled up between layers in the lining of the vessel, and reacted explosively with the vessel’s carbon composite outer wrapping. SpaceX said it has changed its procedures to head off the problem for future launches.
On Thursday, SpaceX fueled up the Falcon 9 at the Vandenberg launch site and successfully conducted a rehearsal known as a static-fire test. That test undoubtedly provided additional assurance for the FAA as it was preparing to issue the license for next week’s launch.
When SpaceX released the findings of its investigation into the Sept. 1 mishap, it said the launch would be scheduled for Sunday. But because of the scheduling for the static-fire test, the timing was pushed back to Monday at the earliest.