To update: Due to forecasts of heavy rainfall in California this week, Iridium Chief Executive Matt Desch said the launch has been postponed to Saturday 14 January. at 12:54 p.m. ET.
Original story: The Federal Aviation Administration issued a launch permit to SpaceX on Friday. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. This license formally authorizes SpaceX to return to flight following a September 1 accident that resulted in a total loss of the rocket and its satellite payload. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has already done so said the missile is ready, having completed its static fire test on Thursday. The FAA has also authorized six additional flights for SpaceX from Vandenberg.
SpaceX will launch 10 Iridium NEXT satellites for its return-to-flight mission. According to Virginia-based Iridium Communications, SpaceX will attempt to launch on Monday, January 9, weather permitting. Monday’s proposed flight would make a remarkably short turnaround after the September accident in which one of the three composite-encased pressure vessels in the liquid oxygen tank of the rocket’s second stage failed.
The FAA license states that SpaceX will fly the latest version 1.2 configuration of its Falcon 9 rocket. This upgraded variant of the booster features the updated Merlin-1D rocket motor and uses cooled, compressed propellant. Combined, the rocket and propellant add about 30 percent to the Falcon 9’s overall lift performance. SpaceX hopes to recover the rocket on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean.
If SpaceX is successful with next week’s flight, it has a busy manifesto ahead. It could try to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral by Jan. 26, which carries the Echostar 23 communications satellite. The company also has a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station CRS-10 scheduled for early February.