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Falcon 9 Is All Systems Go With January 9 Launch Attempt: What This Means For SpaceX And Iridium

7 January 2017, 9:56 am EST By Athena Chan Tech Times
The Falcon 9 is ready for another launch on Monday, Jan. 9. What does this mean for SpaceX and Iridium?  ( Roberto Gonzalez | Getty Images )

SpaceX is ready to give Falcon 9 another shot at launching into space from the Vandenberg Air Force Base at 1:22 p.m E.T. on Jan. 9. The company initially announced plans for a Jan. 8 launch, but was later pushed back by a single day after gaining approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The success of this launch is relevant to SpaceX as it could push for the resumption of its 70 contracted satellite launches for Iridium, which were postponed after the Sept. 1 explosion at Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX And Iridium's NEXT Constellation Satellites

Monday's launch will be momentous not only for SpaceX but also for Iridium Communications Inc. The delays in the Falcon 9 mission also meant delays in the replacement of Iridium's satellites. Ten of its low-earth orbit satellites will launch along with the Falcon 9 to replace 20-year-old satellites currently orbiting space.

Should this launch prove successful, SpaceX is set to send 70 more satellites into space for Iridium in the months to come. The NEXT satellites aim to provide better communication services and better tracking of airplanes around the world.

What Really Happened To The Falcon 9 In September?

On Jan. 2, SpaceX announced that, after a thorough investigation that spanned four months, and with help from the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and several experts, the company may have finally found the cause of the explosion in September.

One of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPV) failed. Because buckles were found in the recovered pressure vessels, it was concluded that the super chilled oxygen may have pooled the buckles enough to cause a chain of reaction leading to the failure of the COPV. It was also found that the loading temperature of the helium was low enough to create solid oxygen, which in turn increased the chances of friction ignition.

With these findings, SpaceX implemented adjustments to correct the said errors, and is planning future design changes to the Falcon 9.

The Falcon 9

The Falcon 9 is the first rocket completed in the 21st century. It is a two-stage rocket designed for the safe transport of satellites into space with its nine Merlin engines, which can sustain up to two engine shutdowns to still complete its mission successfully. Since making a trip to the International Space Station in 2012, the Falcon 9 has made multiple trips to the ISS both to deliver and return cargo.

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