SpaceX aims to resume launches in
November, president says
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[September 19, 2016]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - SpaceX is
aiming to resume flights in November following a launch pad fire that
destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and an Israeli communications satellite it
was due to lift into orbit, the company’s president said on Tuesday.
The space services company suspended Falcon 9 flights while it
investigates why the rocket burst into flames on Sept 1 as it was being
fueled for a routine prelaunch test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
“We’re anticipating … being down for about three months, getting back to
flight in the November timeframe,” Gwynne Shotwell, president of Elon
Musk’s space company, said at a satellite industry conference in Paris.
A video clip of Shotwell’s comments was posted on YouTube.
Shotwell did not elaborate on what repairs to the rocket, if any, would
be needed for SpaceX to return to flight in November. The company also
has not said how much damage the blast caused to the launch pad and
ground support equipment. The accident destroyed the $200 million
satellite owned by Israel's Space Communication Ltd <SCC.TA>.
SpaceX previously said a nearly-completed second launch site in Florida,
located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), would be finished in
November. The pad was last used to launch NASA’s space shuttles five
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An explosion on the launch site of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is shown
in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. September 1, 2016. Courtesy of
Twitter.com/Kris N./Handout via REUTERS
NASA on Tuesday said it had no reservations about SpaceX flying at
KSC. “We’re confident that SpaceX will understand and recover from
what happened,” Tom Engler, KSC deputy director of Center Planning
and Development, told Reuters. “From our perspective, (the accident)
changed nothing as far as our planning and implementation activities
are concerned.” A source familiar with SpaceX’s plans said the first
flight from the KSC launch pad would be a Falcon 9 rocket, not the
debut flight of Falcon Heavy, as previously scheduled. The Falcon
Heavy, a 27-engine version of the nine-engine Falcon 9, would most
likely fly in the first quarter of 2017. The customer for SpaceX’s
return-to-flight mission has not yet been named. Before the
accident, the next satellite slated to fly aboard a Falcon 9 from
Florida was owned by Luxembourg-based SES SA. The company could not
immediately be reached for comment. SpaceX’s west coast launch site,
located at Vandenberg Air Force in California, also would be ready
to support a launch in the November timeframe, the source said.
Before the accident, SpaceX had been targeting a September launch
from California for Iridium Communications Inc. SpaceX has a backlog
of more than 70 missions, worth more than $10 billion. Before the
Sept 1 accident, Falcon 9 rockets had flown 27 times successfully
and failed once.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Andrew Hay)
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