SpaceX Falcon 9 Return to Flight Set for Monday

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 booster with 10 Iridium communications satellites on board from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Monday at 10:22 a.m. PST.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has Tweeted that a pre-flight engine firing conducted on Thursday was successful. The FAA also issued a license today for SpaceX to perform the launch. The approval includes

The launch will be the first Falcon 9 flight since a booster caught fire and exploded on the launch pad on Sept. 1. The accident, which SpaceX says was caused by a breach in a second stage helium tank, destroyed the $195 million Amos-6 communications satellite.

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  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    All the best to SpaceX, Iridium and all those involved at VAF Base.
    Cheers

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, let’s pray it is successful as the fate of both SpaceX and Iridium are depending on it. Yes, both will survive if it fails, but it will be a huge setback for them.

  • ReSpaceAge

    Do to weather, this launch will likely be delayed till Wednesday.

    I hope to watch the first used booster launch from the cape and take another selfie in front of it at Port Canaveral.

    SpaceX will have many Milestones this year.

    New Hope

  • windbourne

    That is exactly spot-on.
    If spacex loses this, it will set them back a long ways as both ula and Airbus are getting ready to start building rockets ahead of time.

  • patb2009

    ULA was originally supposed to have the capability to build one booster/week…

  • Vladislaw

    I really hope they nail down the 3 week launch cadence and get their 18 launches this year.

  • duheagle

    The Sept. 1 explosion occurred during propellant loading for a hot-fire test. The hot-fire test for the upcoming return-to-flight launch was done successfully on Thursday. I always have my fingers crossed on these launches, but the evidence looks pretty good that the accident diagnosis was good and the fix works.

  • duheagle

    18 launches was last year’s SpaceX goal. I suspect it intends to try for well over 18 launches this year. With six months downtime in 2015 and four months downtime in 2016, the backlog continues to grow. But SpaceX has two working pads, Vandy and LC-39A. The seven missions for Iridium and one or two others for other clients that need to go high-inclination should result in SpaceX being able to comfortably exceed 20 launches this year without overworking either pad and launch crew. That, of course, assumes no accidents.

  • Douglas Messier

    Let’s review the last 3 years:

    They were going to try 11 or 12 in 2014. They got 6 done.

    The following year, they went 6 for 7 and were grounded for 6 months.

    In 2016, they reeled off 8 and then blew up the 9th on the launch pad then were grounded for another 4 months.

    So, three years missing launch targets. Ten months grounded. Two destroyed payloads worth about $300 million.

    Another failed launch any time soon, and I think SpaceX is going to have a very serious problem. Their credibility will be shot, their financial situation will deteriorate, customers could end up abandoning them. They’ll also have no revenue flowing in from their only rocket while they’re grounded again.

    They also have two pretty crucial missions to get off the ground this year. The first is Falcon Heavy, which is 4+ behind schedule. The second that is absolutely crucial is Crew Dragon, now 20 months behind schedule. They’re also supposed to introduce a new variant of the the Falcon 9, supposedly the last design they’re going to fly.

    Focusing on trying to do a high launch cadence (18 or more, as duheagle suggests) shouldn’t be the priority this year. Get through the year without blowing anything else up and get the priority missions done. I have no confidence that SpaceX will follow this course because that’s not how Musk rolls. But, it would be the prudent thing to do.

  • therealdmt

    12-ish, with no explosions, would be good

  • Jeff2Space

    Pads:
    1. Vandenberg CA (this upcoming launch)
    2. KSC (former shuttle pad LC-39A), FL (assuming it’s up and running)
    3. Cape Canaveral, FL (assuming they can fix the damage from last year’s hot fire accident)

  • Jeff2Space

    Other space news site says no earlier than Jan. 14 (Saturday) due to weather.

  • Vladislaw

    If we are going to move to higher launch cadences and a LOT more launches per year, I accept there will be more bad hair days to go with them.. There is a not a single form of mechanical transportation that did not suffer more accidents when you increased the use of that system. Every crash finds problems to solve… I do not have the same fears as you.

  • Vladislaw

    “If you can’t take a little bloody nose, maybe you should go back home and crawl under your bed, it’s not safe out here”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBwoEXlTph0

  • Douglas Messier

    Here’s the concern: low launch rate + high burn rate (5,000+ employees) + multiple programs (Crew Dragon, sat constellation, Mars, Texas spaceport, etc.) probably equals running at a loss. Quite possibly a significant one. We don’t know for sure because it’s a private company, but the claim that SpaceX was cash flow positive and profitable was recently removed from the company’s website. So, I’m thinking that’s a sign.

    Another accident any time soon that grounds for any significant length of time would be a lot worse than a bloody nose. It could throw the company into serious crisis. Musk’s entire empire is pretty debt ridden, so I wouldn’t necessarily count on Tesla riding to the rescue.

    And what if the bad hair day is the Crew Dragon launch? Then NASA is really screwed.

  • Douglas Messier

    that’s about right.

  • ThomasLMatula

    And that is one of the basic hurdles of spaceflight the is going to need to change, grounding vehicles for months every time there is an accident. If airliners were grounded on such a regular basis after each accident they would be out business quickly. Yes, aircraft have occasionally been grounded, but only after it was shown to be a systematic problem and not a unique series of events. Unfortunately rockets, because of their low launch rate, are treated the opposite way, considered unsafe until proven otherwise.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, it appears the unique series of events that caused the accident were not repeated.

  • Stu

    Thomas, I think you really need to consider what it involved with certification of commercial airframes and engines. It is FAR more rigorous than that required of commercial launch providers — as it should be, as the reliability needs to be orders of magnitude higher. Rockets are unsafe and no one has any expectation of absolute reliability.

  • windbourne

    I would bet that if a crash occurred in the first 20-30 flights of a new craft, that craft would be grounded quickly.