After a severe setback in September when one of its rockets exploded on the launchpad, SpaceX may be just a couple of weeks from resuming its space missions.
Satellite manufacturer Iridium Communications said on Thursday that it plans to launch 10 satellites via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on December 16. The mission is subject to approval by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is currently studying SpaceX’s findings on the September 1 explosion.
If the launch is green-lighted, it would be a major boost for the SpaceX team, which at one point was wondering if its rockets might be grounded for up to a whole year.
“Really surprising problem”
September’s fiery incident was put down to a fueling issue that SpaceX CEO recently described as a “really surprising problem that’s never been encountered before in the history of rocketry.” Musk added that solving it had been the company’s biggest challenge since its founding in 2002.
In an interview on NBC broadcast last month, the CEO said it appeared that liquid oxygen froze as it was flowing into the second stage tank, with the unexpected occurrence leading to the catastrophic failure.
The explosion resulted in the loss of not only a Falcon 9 rocket but also a $200-million Israeli satellite that Facebook was planning to use for its ongoing work to bring internet connectivity to remote parts of the world.
With contracts for future missions to ferry supplies to the International Space Station and take satellites into space, as well as far bolder goals that involve trips into deep space and even helping to build a city on Mars, SpaceX certainly can’t afford too many more failures like the one it suffered three months ago.
But before anything happens, we’ll have to wait and see if the FAA gives the go ahead for the proposed December 16 launch. If it does, it’ll be a very welcome early Christmas present for Musk and his SpaceX team.