SpaceX says rocket launches could resume as soon as November

SpaceX said it expects to resume launches as soon as November, avoiding a lengthy delay after its Sept. 1 launch pad explosion grounded flights and destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and a communications satellite.

Speaking at a satellite business conference in Paris, President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said the Hawthorne company is “anticipating getting back to flight -- being down for about three months -- and getting back to flight in the November time frame,” according to Bloomberg.

“We’ll obviously take another look at the rocket, focus on the ground systems,” she said. SpaceX is still trying to determine the cause of the explosion and said it is continuing to “thoroughly investigate.”

Last week, SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted that the fiery explosion was turning out to be the “most difficult and complex failure” in company history. The investigation into the cause of the explosion is ongoing.

The rocket and its payload exploded while the vehicle was being fueled ahead of a standard pre-launch static fire test. SpaceX has said the “anomaly” occurred around the upper-stage oxygen tank.

Musk tweeted last week that the engines were not on and there was “no apparent heat source.”

SpaceX said it will be able to launch from its alternate launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during the November time frame as well as Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

SpaceX has said its launch pad 39A at Cape Canaveral would be “operational” in November. The launch complex at Vandenberg is in the “final stages” of an upgrade and will also be ready by November, SpaceX said. 

Shortly after the explosion, SpaceX said it was assessing the scope of the damage to Space Launch Complex 40, where the failure occurred.

SpaceX also said on Tuesday that its Falcon Heavy rocket will launch in the first quarter of 2017. The heavy-lift rocket had been expected to launch toward the end of this year. The company said it will attempt to land the rocket’s three first-stage boosters on land or at sea.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

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UPDATES:

2:35 p.m.: This article was updated to include information about the expected launch date of the Falcon Heavy rocket.

This article was originally published at 11:40 a.m.

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