SpaceX back at it with planned Jan. 8th launch


SpaceX wants to start 2017 off with a bang. 

Well, a launch, to be more specific. After a hiatus from rocket launches following the explosion of its Falcon 9 rocket in September, SpaceX has determined the reason for the accident and is finally planning new launches. 

In IT Blogwatch, we start the countdown. 

So what is happening? JC Torres has the details:

What should have been a glorious end to SpaceX‘s 2016 ended up in a blaze when, on 1st September, its Falcon 9 exploded...before it could get off the ground, taking Facebook’s first satellite down with it. Now four months later, SpaceX...having traced down the cause of that failed attempt...will once again try its luck on 8th January in an attempt to start the year right.

And what exactly does that mean? Lauren Kornfeld explains:

SpaceX will resume launches...with a commercial mission that will launch from Vandenburg Air Force Base near Los Angeles, California...The Falcon 9 will carry 10 Iridium NEXT satellite telephone relay stations.
A cargo delivery mission to the..ISS...will launch on an...unspecified date following a second commercial mission.

So what caused the September explosion, anyway? We let the SpaceX team tell us itself:

The accident investigation team...concluded that one of the...composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the second stage liquid oxygen (LOX) tank failed...the failure was likely due to the accumulation of oxygen between the COPV liner and overwrap in a void or a buckle in the liner, leading to ignition and the subsequent failure of the COPV.
The corrective actions address all credible causes and...avoid the conditions that led to these credible causes...this entails changing the COPV configuration to allow warmer temperature helium to be loaded, as well as returning helium loading operations to a prior flight proven configuration...In the long term, SpaceX will implement design changes to the COPVs to prevent buckles altogether.

Did SpaceX come to these conclusions on its own? Not quite. Andy Pasztor fills us in:

SpaceX has been heading up the accident probe, with cooperation from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Air Force and other...experts...the FAA has authority to accept the final report and issue a launch license.
SpaceX...which has...roughly a $10 billion backlog of launch contracts, seeks to show commercial and U.S. government customers it can bounce back and speed up its launch tempo.

So what is next for SpaceX? Samantha Masunaga is in the know:

Not only does SpaceX have a long manifest of launch customers, including NASA supply missions...but it is also building a crew capsule to ferry astronauts to the space station.
That capsule is set for its first uncrewed flight test in November, followed by its first flight test with humans in May 2018...SpaceX also plans to launch its heavy-lift rocket, the Falcon Heavy, this year for the first time.

Anything else important? BG Clement has a follow-up question:

Will launch and/or landing trajectories be visible from SoCal? If not, can we swing by Mission Control? 😜

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