SpaceX Plans to Launch Several Satellites on January 8 in First Return to Flight Since September 1

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - MARCH 4: In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket makes a successful launch with the SES-9 communications satellite on March 4, 2016 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – MARCH 4: In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket makes a successful launch with the SES-9 communications satellite on March 4, 2016 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is slated to launch several Iridium communications satellites Jan. 8 from Vandenberg Air Force Base on California’s central coast, marking the company’s first return to flight since a Sept. 1 fireball destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket on a Florida launch pad.

An accident investigation team “concluded that one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels inside the second stage liquid oxygen tank failed,” SpaceX said Monday in a statement on its website. The September failure was likely because of an oxygen buildup or a void in the buckle in the liner of the vessel, the company said.

The announcement of a launch date means that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has accepted SpaceX’s investigation report regarding the Sept. 1 mishap, which founder Elon Musk has called the company’s most perplexing failure in 14 years. The blast occurred during a test firing of the rocket’s engines, destroying a Falcon 9 rocket and Amos-6, an Israeli communications satellite, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. No one was injured.

SpaceX is making design changes to the overwrapped pressure vessels and “corrective actions address all credible causes and focus on changes which avoid the conditions that led” to the potential reasons for the September accident, the company said.

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SOURCE: Bloomberg, Dana Hull and Sonali Basak