Spaceflight Insider

SpaceX Falcon 9 RTF postponed to Jan. 14

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 Space Exploration Technologies photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

An archive photo of a Falcon 9 rocket inside its horizontal integration hanger. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The return-to-flight of SpaceXs Falcon 9 rocket will have to wait another week. According to a report appearing on NoozHawk, industry sources say the company is now working toward a launch at 9:54 a.m. PST (12:54 p.m. EST / 17:54 GMT) on Jan. 14, 2017. This has been confirmed by the customer, Iridium Communications, on Twitter.

SpaceX had been planning to launch 10 Iridium NEXT satellites in an instantaneous launch window (this means it will only remain open for 1 second) at 10:22 a.m. PST (18:22 GMT) on Monday, Jan. 9, from Space Launch Complex 4E (East) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. In advance of this date, the company had performed a static test fire for the Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 5, which it usually does to verify everything is working well with the rocket prior to launch day.


The inclement weather in California has been cited as the reason for the delay. The forecast for Monday is expected to have a 20 percent chance of rain, with rain and clouds expected to be a problem throughout the week. However, according to the National Weather Service, the conditions are expected to improve on Jan. 14 as it offers only a slight chance of rain and will be partly sunny.

SpaceX is hoping to return the Falcon 9 to service after an explosion during a static fire test on Sept. 1, 2016, at the NewSpace firm’s Cape Canaveral launch pad caused the destruction of the rocket and payload it was carrying. The company spent the better part of four months investigating what caused the accident.

On Jan. 2, 2017, SpaceX announced that the composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) used to store the helium inside the Falcon 9’s second stage failed after some of the super-cooled, liquid oxygen (LOX) became trapped in the overwrap. While filling the stage with the LOX, conditions on and around the helium tank likely caused some of the trapped oxygen to freeze. This could have caused a buckle in the liner, leading to an ignition and subsequent failure of the COPV.

The Federal Aviation Administration gave the go-ahead on Friday Jan. 6 for the return-to-flight mission and six subsequent flights over the next couple years out of Vandenberg transporting 10 Iridium NEXT satellites each.

The Iridium-1 mission expected to the first flight in a busy year for the NewSpace company. In addition to a large backlog of commercial missions, SpaceX is expected to send three or four Dragon cargo ships to the International Space Station, launch the first Falcon Heavy rocket, send the first unpiloted Crew Dragon into space, and re-fly at least one of the recovered Falcon 9 first stages.

This follows the Sept. 1, 2016 explosion of another SpaceX Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. The NewSpace firm, along with the FAA, NASA, United States Air Force and others carried out an investigation as to the cause of the accident and determined that composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) used to store cold helium inside the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage failed after super-cooled liquid oxygen (LOX) became trapped in the carbon composite overwrap.



Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.

Reader Comments


I didn’t think they would get off today. Too stormy.

Elon Musk met last Friday, January 6, with 3 of Trump’s top advisors at Trump Tower. Musk discussed plans for ‘economic development and job creation’ with Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and Steven Miller, who is tasked with writing the inauguration speech for Trump.
Since Musk is involved in tube and electric car transportation, Mars exploration, and artificial intelligence, any initiative will probably involve one of them. Computer AI won’t create a lot of Rust Belt jobs here, and any Mars landing would cost hundreds of billions, which I doubt Congress would actually spend on a Mars landing. Especially if they want to cut taxes and increase military spending simultaneously. That leaves building a tube transportation system as something that could put a half million people to work across the country. So that is my guess. A Moon base would be my second guess. Trump might not want China to open up a Moon base gap!
Securing the right-of-way for any tube transportation system will be fun. That could be the tube killer, as it would displace a lot of people. China could do it, but it will take forever in a democratic country, with all the public hearings that will be necessary. Then again, they will have to prove that it can work before they can begin to build any tubes.

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