Stage set for pre-Christmas return to flight for SpaceX

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets have been out of action since the September 1 accident(Credit: SpaceX)

With a pretty crowded launch manifesto and plans for deep space exploration, there are a few interested parties eyeing SpaceX's next move following the recent launchpad explosion that took out its Falcon 9 rocket. We've just gotten our clearest indication yet of what that will be, with client Iridium Communications today announcing a launch date for an upcoming mission that will see SpaceX launch its next-generation satellites into orbit on December 16, pending regulatory approval.

In terms of launches, SpaceX has been out of action since a disastrous pre-flight anomaly on September 1 caused a massive explosion, destroying the Falcon 9 booster and a Facebook satellite at the same time. Investigations have helped SpaceX narrow down the cause for the accident, which appears related to a rupture in a cryogenic helium system.

It has since expressed wishes to resume launches of its Falcon 9 rocket by the end of the year, and now it seems like those hopes may be fulfilled.

"Iridium NEXT will be launching on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on December 16, 2016 at 12:36 p.m. PST," reads an update on Iridium's website today. "Launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, the Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into low-earth orbit."

However, the post does go on to say that whether or not the mission goes ahead will depend on the Federal Aviation Administration ticking off SpaceX's return to flight after the September disaster. So fingers crossed they've dotted the i's and cross the t's.

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