(Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon rocket blasted off from California on Saturday, returning the company to flight for the first time since a fiery launchpad explosion in September.
The launch of the 230-foot (70-meter) rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:54 a.m. PST (1754 GMT) aimed to deliver 10 satellites into orbit for Iridium Communications Inc.
SpaceX’s founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk’s ambitious flight plans had been grounded since the Sept. 1 explosion during fueling ahead of a pre-flight test in Florida.
About 10 minutes after Saturday’s launch, the first stage of the rocket, which had separated from the rest of craft, successfully touched down on a platform in the Pacific Ocean, a feat previously accomplished by four other returning Falcon rockets. SpaceX intends to reuse its rockets to cut costs.
The mission will test changes implemented by Space Exploration Technologies Corp, known as SpaceX, since the launchpad explosion.
Accident investigators determined that a canister of helium burst inside the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen tank, triggering the explosion. The canister is being redesigned, but until then SpaceX is addressing the issue by modifying its fueling procedures.
The explosion destroyed a $62 million SpaceX booster and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite that it was to put into orbit two days later…. see more