It appears that SpaceX has delayed its return to flight launch of the Iridium NEXT satellites from this coming Monday to January 14th at 9:54 AM. The news unofficially broke on Twitter Saturday evening via Vincent Lamigeon, citing industry sources.
#SpaceX return to flight now planned on Jan 14th 9:54AM, according to industry sources
— Vincent Lamigeon (@VincentLamigeon) January 8, 2017
While poor weather has been cited as the reason for the delay, Lamigeon specifically mentioned that was the “official” reason, raising the question of whether there were other issues which led to the delay; however, considering the recent California weather predictions around the launch date, a weather delay comes as no surprise.
#SpaceX return to flight will not occur on Monday 9th as planned. Officially weather issues. Jan 10th possible date, but pretty unlikely
— Vincent Lamigeon (@VincentLamigeon) January 7, 2017
Updated: Iridium CEO Matt Desch has confirmed the postponement of the upcoming SpaceX launch mission. As we first reported, a new launch date has been set for Saturday, Jan. 14 at 9:54am PST from Vandenberg.
Can now confirm: new launch date Jan 14 at 9:54am pst. Bad weather the cause. Anti-rain dances didn't work – oh well. Cal needs rain? pic.twitter.com/29DdT4mzeg
— Matt Desch (@IridiumBoss) January 8, 2017
Falcon 9’s return to flight has been highly anticipated since its September 1, 2016 launch pad explosion which resulted in the loss of the rocket, its payload, and use of the launch pad. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had required the submission of SpaceX’s accident investigation report before granting a launch license to the company. The report was submitted earlier this month, and the FAA granted SpaceX the required license on January 6th.
The coming Iridium NEXT launch will attempt to land the Falcon 9 first stage booster on the autonomous drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” (JRTI). SpaceX has successfully landed four boosters on the east coast drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY), but has yet to stick a landing on JRTI.
The location of the drone ships is often tracked by SpaceX fans in order to deduce information regarding the status of Falcon 9 launches along with pre-launch static fire testing. SpaceX successfully completed its static fire test for the Iridium launch, this time without payload as a precautionary measure resulting from the September explosion.
The investigation is complete, the licenses are granted, and Falcon 9 is ready to launch. Hopefully the weather will cooperate to complete the square come January 14th.
— Cowboy Dan (@CowboyDanPaasch) January 7, 2017