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SpaceX Hopes to Get Back to Launching Rockets in November

Sep 16, 2016 04:57 AM EDT
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SpaceX successfully launches its 14th Falcon 9 rocket

SpaceX is anticipating a return-to-flight launch in November of this year. After a catastrophic launch pad explosion on Sept. 1, which destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and an Amos-6 communications satellite, the company is already planning to get back to business.

"We're anticipating getting back to flight, being down for about three months, so getting back to flight in November, the November timeframe," Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, said during the World Satellite Business Week Conference held in Paris, France on Sept. 13.

The spaceflight company led by billionaire and entrepreneur Elon Musk had suspended Falcon 9 flights while investigating the incident. During its routine fuel test for a supposed launch of the Amos-6 communications satellite on Sept. 3, which was commissioned by social media behemoth Facebook for its free Internet project, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Both the $60-million rocket and the $200-million Israeli satellite had been destroyed.

SpaceX is still investigating the root cause of the explosion, which was said to be "the most difficult and complex failure" in the company's history, as expressed by Musk in a series of Tweets. Moreover, he sought the help of the public in providing photos, videos or audio recordings of the incident to aid investigators.

The failure began somewhere in the upper stage of the rocket near the liquid oxygen tank during the prelaunch test operations at the SpaceX launch pad. Launch engineers were at the last stages of loading liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene propellants when the "anomaly" happened about 8 minutes before the engine ignition, Universe Today reports.

Shotwell, however, did not elaborate about what repairs will be needed for the return-to-flight launch. She also mentioned in the conference that the said launch would occur from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, which was formerly used by NASA's space shuttles.

"We're confident that SpaceX will understand and recover from what happened," Tom Engler, KSC deputy director of Center Planning and Development, told Reuters. "From our perspective, (the accident) changed nothing as far as our planning and implementation activities are concerned."

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