SpaceX adjusts Falcon 9 launch date to Jan. 9; prepares for engine test at Vandenberg

SpaceX’s upcoming Falcon 9 launch has been postponed by one day to Monday, Jan 9 as the Elon Musk-led space company prepares for arguably the most anticipated return to flight in the company’s history.

Crew at SpaceX are expected to perform a countdown rehearsal and static engine test fire from Vandenberg Air Force base in the coming days ahead of the planned launch date. The static engine test – a critical preparation procedure that involves firing of engines while the rocket is anchored to the launch pad – was originally planned for Tuesday, Jan 3 but delayed due to unspecified reasons.

Mariners and pilots near the site of the launch were given early preparation notices for Sunday, Jan. 8 at 10:28 a.m., informing them of areas to avoid during the launch, however an updated notice sent by officials at Vandenberg adjusted the date to a day later. The new date marks the third launch delay for SpaceX since its Falcon 9 exploded during a pre-flight test, destroying Facebook’s internet satellite.

The upcoming Jan. 9 launch mission will transport ten next generation satellites into orbit for Virginia-based Iridium Communications. The company will attempt to swap all ten mobile voice and data satellites while orbiting approximately 483 miles above the earth. “The slot swap is like changing out a car tire while moving 17,000 miles an hour,” said Julian Horvath, operations manager for the Iridium NEXT satellite program, via WTOP.

Iridium teased photos last week of the satellites mounted behind Falcon 9’s fairings. The entire payload is said to be worth $284 million and will be the heaviest payload SpaceX has carried to date.

We’ll be sure to update here as we obtain more specifics about the upcoming return to flight, currently scheduled for Monday, Jan 9. from Vandenberg.


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