by Chris Tobias
After a long hiatus that was caused by a launch-pad irregularity last year, SpaceX is scheduled to return to flight tomorrow with the launch of a Falcon 9 that will deploy Iridium-1, a bundle of ten satellites for Iridium’s mobile voice and data relay network.
The launch, which was originally scheduled for January 8 but was postponed due to less-than-optimal weather conditions at the West Coast launch site, will be the first since SpaceX concluded its investigation into the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral on Sept. 1 of last year, a mishap which destroyed the Amos 6 communications satellite just days before it was to lift off.
A statement posted on the SpaceX website Jan. 2 confirmed the company’s previous suspicion that the explosion was caused by the failure of one of three helium tanks, known as “Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessels” (COPVs), inside the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s second stage. This discovery has led to changes to the Falcon 9’s fueling procedures for all future flights that are designed to eliminate the conditions that caused the failure.
Tomorrow’s launch will take place at Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Liftoff is scheduled for just after 12:54pm EST. Live coverage of the launch should begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff on SpaceX’s Youtube channel.