In Brief
  • SpaceX hasn't been able to launch a rocket since the explosion that occurred in September of 2016; however, they recently concluded their investigation and are set to return to space.
  • This past week, the FAA gave SpaceX permission to return to flight. A launch is set for this weekend.

“All systems are go”

SpaceX has been grounded—literally—since its September 2016 Falcon 9 rocket explosion. For some time, the California space venture company owned by Elon Musk has been trying to make it back to the launch pad. After a long period of investigation, and a series of alterations in both practices and technologies used, SpaceX is going to return to flight this coming week, as confirmed by the launch license it has just received from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA has reviewed and approved SpaceX’s findings regarding the September explosion, according to a statement made on January 6th by FAA spokesman Hank Price.

“The FAA accepted the investigation report on the Amos-6 mishap and has closed the investigation,” Price said. “SpaceX applied for a license to launch the Iridium Next satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The FAA has granted a license for that purpose.”

The license SpaceX received is valid until January 2019, which makes it enough to cover all seven planned launches with Iridium NEXT. Last week, the payload of ten Iridium NEXT satellites were successfully loaded onto the Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX has been confident that it would be getting clearance from the FAA since it completed its investigation report on January 2nd of this year.

Although the initial plan was for a January 9 launch at 1:22 pm ET, according to an Iridium spokesman, that date has been pushed back due to inclement weather. Still, it seems that all systems are go for launch this coming week, it’s just that the Falcon 9 rocket launch has been pushed back a few days, to January 14th at 12:54 pm ET.

Credits: SpaceX
Credits: SpaceX

The age of reusable rockets and commercial spaceflight

The advent of commercial spaceflight, which got its footing with the Commercial Space Act of 1984 and the Launch Services Purchase Act of 1990, has made it possible for companies to rely on more than NASA to send payloads into space. The recent surge in the number of private space companies was one evident result—with the likes of SpaceX, Blue Origin, Bigelow Aerospace, and even veteran Boeing jumping into the action. These private space companies are even working with NASA for some of their missions.

Of course, the other benefit of commercial spaceflight, equally obvious but perhaps more important, is how these private space companies have started to actually lead innovation and development when it comes to spaceflight and rocket technologies.

One such example is reusable rocket technology. While it has a record of 6 successful Falcon 9 reusable rocket landings on its belt, SpaceX isn’t the only private space company that is into the reusable rocket game—though it certainly seems to be leading the charge. Other companies that are working on the technology include Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, with its own record of landings, and Masten.

Now that SpaceX is set to go back into space, we are back on the road to more improvements and new innovations in spaceflight.