SpaceX targets first launch from Complex 40 since explosion

Falcon 9 to launch no earlier than Dec. 4 with Space Station supplies

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist
Associated Press

This Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 file photo shows the damaged SpaceX launch complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company's Falcon 9 rocket exploded during its launch on Sept. 1.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - It's been more than a year since a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on Space Launch Complex 40 and along with it a communication satellite leased by Facebook.

NASA officials confirmed Monday that SpaceX is targeting Dec. 4 for its first launch since the September 2016 incident; it intends to send a cargo ship to the International Space Station from the renovated launchpad.

The rebuilt pad is on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base side a few miles down the beach from Kennedy Space Center's launch complex. It's essential for SpaceX to have a second launchpad to allow Kennedy Space Center pad 39A to be available for the future heavy lift rocket, Falcon Heavy, reports SpaceX is targeting the first Falcon Heavy launch by the end of 2018.

The mission, known as CRS 13, will be the 13th contracted by NASA using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to send supplies to the orbiting space station and its astronaut residents. The Dragon capsule previously launched on another mission and it's possible SpaceX could use a previously flown Falcon 9 booster as well, which would be a first for a NASA-contracted launch.

SpaceX has been launching, landing and re-launching it's Falcon 9 first-stages on repeat since the company led by CEO Elon Musk first made history with a previously flown rocket launch and landing in April of this year.

If NASA and its launch provider stay on track with this tentative date, a SpaceX Falcon 9 will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at 2:53 p.m.

The Dragon spacecraft will spend about a month at the space station before returning to Earth.

Last week, SpaceX put the launch of a secret mission only known as Zuma on hold after three days of delays. A new launch date has not been announced.

A SpaceX's spokesman said the launch was called off to allow for teams to review an issue uncovered during testing of the Falcon 9 rocket nose cones, also known as payload fairings.

“We have decided to stand down and take a closer look at data from recent fairing testing for another customer," SpaceX communication director John Taylor said. "We will take the time we need to complete the data review and will then confirm a new launch date.”

The Dragon spacecraft is not encased by fairings and should not be affected by the hardware issue.

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