SpaceX expects to return a repaired and upgraded Falcon 9 rocket to flight around the start of December, a company vice president said, less than six months after one exploded shortly after liftoff.
The 208-foot-tall rocket carrying a load of cargo for the International Space Station exploded less than three minutes after liftoff from Florida on June 28.
The cause of the accident was traced to faulty bracket inside the rocket’s upper-stage liquid oxygen tank. When the steel bracket broke, a bottle of high-pressure helium was released, causing the tank to over-pressurize and explode.
"We believe in the next six to eight weeks we’ll be able to return to flight," Lee Rosen, SpaceX vice president of mission and launch operations, said on Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress under way this week in Jerusalem.
The Falcon 9, which failed after 18 successful flights, will carry a communications satellite for Luxembourg-based SES SA.
The rocket also will deliver a tiny satellite for SpacePharma, a privately owned Israeli startup, which developed a miniaturized laboratory for microgravity research. A countdown clock on display at the SpacePharma congress exhibit pegs the Falcon 9 launch for Dec. 1.
Privately owned SpaceX also is expected to attempt to land the rocket’s first-stage on a platform in the ocean.