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SpaceX launch at Vandenberg delayed until mid-January

Flight hardware for the inaugural launch of the Falcon 9 rocket at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida in February 2010.
Flight hardware for the inaugural launch of the Falcon 9 rocket at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida in February 2010. via NYT

Despite having a Federal Aviation Administration license in hand and an on-pad test complete, a Falcon 9 rocket and its cargo will have to wait several days longer for the launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in northern Santa Barbara County.

Liftoff of the Space Exploration Technologies rocket now is planned for Jan. 14 from Space Launch Complex-4 on South Base, according to safety notices revised Saturday evening.

Reasons for the delay aren’t known, but weather-related postponements typically don’t occur more than 24 hours before liftoff. The team likely is battling other issues that can involve the technical troubles with a rocket, satellites or ground support equipment or even scheduling conflicts with other activities at Vandenberg.

Even if they are tackling technical troubles, the weather looked less than accommodating for a Monday launch attempt, as heavy rains are expected with an incoming winter storm.

The team also has Jan. 15 reserved as a backup date.

While many launches have longer windows that offer multiple chances to get off the ground, this mission has just one moment a day so the Iridium satellites can be placed in the proper place in space. The launch moves several minutes early for each day it delays.

The Falcon will carry the first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites to begin building the second-generation constellation of craft for a space-based phone system.

“The finish line of the marathon is in sight,” said Scott Smith, Iridium chief operating officer. “The satellites are ready. The rocket is ready. Operations is ready. A new era is about to begin!”

Falcon rocket launches from Vandenberg can be viewed from various viewing sites around the Lompoc Valley because the launch pad is visible south of West Ocean Avenue (Highway 246). The roar and thin yellow contrails from the launches can also usually be heard and seen in San Luis Obispo County, especially in South County.

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Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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