The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has today confirmed that they have issued a launch license to SpaceX to allow it to return to flight with their Falcon 9 rocket, allowing them to launch on January 8th as planned, however, that plan has since been delayed by a day so the launch is now January 9th, as long as the weather permits.
The FAA spokesperson Hank Prince confirmed the news in a statement today, revealing that they have reviewed and accepted SpaceX’s investigation into the pad explosion from September 1st, which destroyed a Falcon 9 as it prepared for a static fire test in preparation for the planned launch of the Atmos-6 communications satellite.
“The FAA accepted the investigation report on the Amos-6 mishap and has closed the investigation, SpaceX applied for a license to launch the Iridium Next satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The FAA has granted a license for that purpose.”
Since that time, SpaceX announced that the reason for this explosion was due to composite overwrapped pressure vessels that were used to store helium in the liquid oxygen tank at the rocket’s upper stage. SpaceX has since made some changes to the Falcon 9 in order to stop this from happening again, including loading warmer helium into the pressure vessels to avoid liquid oxygen from turning into a solid, as well as returning to their previously successful method of loading helium.
In the long-term, they aim to create a new design that will prevent the helium vessels from buckling, however, they did not reveal any details about that design.
So we can look forward to a hopefully fantastic launch from SpaceX on January 9th, or later if the weather does not allow for such a launch. As always we will keep you updated.