With the cause of its September rocket explosion finally sorted out, SpaceX is returning to the launchpad. The company announced Monday that it's planning to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday, Jan. 8, from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.
This will mark the company's first launch since Sept. 1, when a Falcon 9 rocket exploded during a routine pre-launch test at the Kennedy Space Center. In a statement Monday, the company said the incident was likely caused by the failure of one of three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs), which Mashable explains "store cold helium to maintain tank pressure":
Investigators believe that liquid oxygen pooled here and was trapped when the COPVs were pressurized, making it more likely for friction to ignite the trapped oxygen. Additionally, investigators believe that when that cold helium was loaded, its temperature was cold enough to create solid oxygen, making ignition more likely. [Mashable]
The conclusion followed an investigation by experts from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Transportation Safety Board. SpaceX said it has solved the problem and developed a solution to prevent it from happening again.
The next launch will take satellites into orbit for global satellite communications company Iridium Communications.