SpaceX aims for Jan. 8 return to flight
with Falcon rocket
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[January 03, 2017]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Elon
Musk’s SpaceX plans to resume flying rockets next week following an
investigation into why one of them burst into flames on a launch pad
four months ago, the company said on Monday.
In a statement, SpaceX said it expected to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from
California's Vandenberg Air Force Base on Jan. 8 to put 10 satellites
into orbit for Iridium Communications Inc.
SpaceX had suspended flights after the same model rocket went up in a
blaze on Sept. 1 as it was being fueled for a routine pre-launch test in
The explosion at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida destroyed
the $62 million rocket and a $200 million communications satellite.
Space X, owned and operated by Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer
Musk, has a backlog of more than 70 missions for NASA and commercial
customers, worth more than $10 billion.
The company statement said that accident investigators concluded that a
canister of helium inside the rocket’s upper-stage oxygen tank had
In the short term, SpaceX plans to revamp its fueling procedures so that
the super-cold liquid oxygen will not build up between the helium tank’s
liner and its outer covering, it added.
SpaceX said accumulation of oxygen in a void or buckle in the liner most
likely led to the explosion.
“In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the (helium
canisters) to prevent buckles altogether,” the statement said.
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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida
April 8, 2016 in this handout photo provided by SpaceX.
REUTERS/SpaceX/Handout via Reuters
The company did not say when new helium canisters would be ready to
fly, but that using warmer temperature helium and a slower fueling
operation will prevent them from bursting.
“Iridium is pleased with SpaceX’s announcement on the results of the
September 1 anomaly as identified by their accident investigation
team, and their plans to target a return to flight,” company
spokeswoman Diane Hockenberry said in a statement.
SpaceX has not said how much damage the Sept. 1 accident did to its
primary Florida launch pad, nor when a new second pad in Florida,
located at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, will be put into service.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz, Editing by W Simon)
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