Iridium satellite loaded on Falcon 9 rocket ahead of planned January 14 launch

SpaceX’s first return to active launch status could be only a few days away, as the payload from Iridium has been loaded on to the Falcon 9 rocket that’s set to take it to space on January 14 if all goes well. The launch was postponed from a planned January 9 date on Sunday this week, due to prevailing weather conditions at the Vandenberg Air Force base launchpad.

The new window will provide an opportunity for SpaceX to perform its first launch since a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on a launchpad during preflight fueling on September 1, 2016. The cause of that explosion was found to be related to a failed pressure vessel in a liquid oxygen storage tank, and SpaceX says that after completing its investigation its confident in steps it took to prevent the same thing from happening again, both with short-term fixes for existing hardware, and in manufacturing process changes for future rockets.

Iridium’s satellites will be used to build a voice and data network, and 10 of them are included in the payload for this first mission back since the SpaceX accident. The rocket that exploded on the launchpad last September contained a satellite intended for use in Facebook’s effort to bring internet access to underserved areas across Africa.