SpaceX punts Falcon 9 return-to-flight launch to January

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WASHINGTON — SpaceX has postponed Falcon 9’s return-t0-flight launch until early January, the Hawthorne, California-based company announced today (Dec. 7).

“We are finalizing the investigation into our September 1 anomaly and are working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight, now in early January with the launch of Iridium-1,” SpaceX said in a statement. “This allows for additional time to close-out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch.”

Iridium Communications, which is entrusting its initial 10 next-generation Iridium NEXT satellites to the first Falcon 9 launch since a Sept. 1 pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 set to launch Spacecom’s Amos-6 satellite, said in its own Dec. 7 statement that it stands by SpaceX’s decision.

“We remain as confident as ever in their ability to safely deliver our satellites into low Earth orbit,” Iridium said.

The launch, from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, had been slated for Dec. 16 prior to today’s announcement. SpaceX said early last week that it still needed the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which oversaw the SpaceX-led investigation into the Sept. 1 accident.