Tuesday, January 03, 2017

SpaceX Pad Explosion Investigation Concluded; Iridium Launch Scheduled January 8th

          By Chuck Black

Hawthorne, California based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has concluded its investigation into the September 1st, 2016 pad explosion which destroyed a SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket plus its Israeli Amos-6 communications satellite payload, and has begun preparations for its next launch. which could come as early as Sunday.

The Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex - 4E (East) in California, where SpaceX is preparing for its scheduled return to flight mission on Sunday, January 8th. As outlined in the January 2nd, 2016 New York Times post, "SpaceX Says It’s Ready to Launch Rockets Again," the cause of the September explosion. which grounded Falcon-9 launches was "an unexpected interplay of supercold helium and oxygen with carbon fibers and aluminum." However, the US  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which administers US civilian launches will still need to sign off on the conclusions reached by the SpaceX investigation. For the completed public report, which includes a listing of steps taken to prevent a repeat occurrence, check out the latest addition to the SpaceX Anomaly Updates.  Photo c/o SpaceX.

The payload for the expected Sunday launch will include the first ten of what is expected to eventually grow into a constellation of 66 Iridium Next generation communication satellites.

Iridium Next also has a Canadian component.

As outlined in the June 15th, 2015 Space News post, "Harris, exactEarth Aim To Ride Iridium Next to Growth in AIS," a strategic partnership between Cambridge, Ontario based exactEarth Ltd. and Melbourne, Florida based defence contractor Harris Corporation has placed exactEarth-patented maritime ship-monitoring technology on 58 of the Iridium Next satellites.

And, as an example of the "six degrees of separation" which connects nearly everyone in the space industry, current MacDonald Dettwiler (CEO) Howard Lance was chairman, CEO & president of Harris Corporation between 2003 - 2011.

Of course, simple scheduling, especially when the schedule relates to something as complex as a rocket launch, doesn't necessarily mean that something will happen.

As outlined on the comprehensive listing of Worldwide Launch Schedules from Spaceflight Now, the current SpaceX launch window is simply the latest in a series of at least a half dozen potential launch windows which have come and gone over the last 18 months, without any actual launch ever taking place.

It's simply the standard operational procedure for an industry still in the midst of working out its kinks.

With that in mind, here's wishing SpaceX luck with their current window.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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