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SpaceX's Return-to-Flight Rocket Launch Slips to Saturday

SpaceX plans to launch 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 14, 2017 from the company's launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, seen here in a 2013 file photo.
SpaceX plans to launch 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 14, 2017 from the company's launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base, seen here in a 2013 file photo. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's first Falcon 9 rocket launch since an explosion in September will now lift off no earlier than Saturday (Jan. 14), a five-day delay that's due to high winds, rain and schedule conflicts at the company's California launch site.  

SpaceX representatives announced the launch delay on Twitter on Sunday (Jan. 8). At the time, SpaceX was targeting a Monday launch of Falcon 9 from a pad at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base to send 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit for satellite operator Iridium. 

"Launch moving due to high winds and rains at Vandenberg," SpaceX representatives wrote in the Twitter post. "Other range conflicts this week results in next available launch date being Jan 14."

SpaceX aims to return its Falcon 9 rockets to flight more than four months after a Falcon 9 carrying another commercial satellite, Israel's Amos-6 communications satellite, was destroyed Sept. 1 in an explosion during a routine pre-launch test at the company's Florida launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. [Dramatic Video of SpaceX's Rocket Explosion]

In a Jan. 2 statement, SpaceX representatives stated that the explosion occurred when the aluminum liner of a composite overwrapped helium tank inside the Falcon 9 rocket's upper stage liquid oxygen tank buckled.

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This buckling allowed liquid oxygen propellant to pool between the aluminum liner and carbon overwrap covering, according to SpaceX. The pooling propellant ultimately ignited, rupturing the helium tank and leading to the loss of the Falcon 9 on the pad. The company is modifying its helium-loading processes to avoid similar problems in the future.

Last week, on Jan. 6, the Federal Aviation Administration issued a launch license to SpaceX for its upcoming Falcon 9 mission. That announcement came one day after Musk announced via Twitter the success of a Falcon 9 engine static test firing at its launchpad, a standard SpaceX test performed before each Falcon 9 mission.  

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Tariq Malik

SPACE.COM EDITOR IN CHIEF — Tariq joined the Space.com team in 2001 as a staff writer, and later editor, covering human spaceflight, exploration and space science. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Google+, Twitter and on Facebook.