Space X has a Experimental Return to Flight date 16 of December.


The satellite communications provider Iridium says it has a erperimental launch date of December 16 for the first batch of its Iridium NEXT satellites, which would mark the return to flight for SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. The company made the announcement Thursday morning on its website.

Any launch remains contingent on Federal Aviation Approval of SpaceX's investigation into the cause of its September 1 accident, which caused a total loss of the rocket and payload on a Florida launch pad. However that investigation is near a resolution, and the setting of a launch date indicates some confidence in its successful conclusion.

According to Iridium, the mid-December launch would occur from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, at 3:36pm ET (8:36pm UK).

 It will send 10 satellites into space as part of Iridium's plan, over the course of seven launches, to replace its existing constellation of communications satellites in low Earth orbit with 70 next-generation satellites.

SpaceX's accident on September 1 occurred during a static fire test just prior to a planned launch of the AMOS-6 communications satellite.

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 The rocket company says that during fueling operations a breach occurred in the cryogenic helium system of the rocket's upper stage liquid oxygen tank. To satisfy the FAA, the company must show that it has found the root cause of the accident and has devised changes to its fueling methods that will prevent future occurrences.

Conducting such an investigation and applying fixes in less than four months would make for a short turnaround in an industry where accident recoveries often take a year or more.

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