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SpaceX set for December return to launchpad?

SpaceX has made a lot of progress in identifying the cause behind a Falcon 9 launchpad explosion earlier this year.

Now,  the company thinks they’ve solved the issue and could be ready to launch next month, founder Elon Musk told CNBC.

“I think we’ve gotten to the bottom of the problem. It’s a really surprising problem that’s never been encountered before in the history of rocketry,” he explained, saying it involved liquid helium, solid oxygen and “advanced carbon fibre” materials.

“It looks like we’re going to be back to launching around mid-December,” the SpaceX co-founder continued.

Late last month, the private space firm announced that it’s narrowed down the cause of the explosion.

As the SpaceX investigation gathers speed, it seems like we might see more launches this year

“Previously, we announced the investigation was focusing on a breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank. The root cause of the breach has not yet been confirmed, but attention has continued to narrow to one of the three composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPVs) inside the LOX tank,” SpaceX wrote on its website on 28 October.

The company added at the time that it’s managed to reproduce a failure of one of these vessels.

“Through extensive testing in Texas, SpaceX has shown that it can re-create a COPV failure entirely through helium loading conditions. These conditions are mainly affected by the temperature and pressure of the helium being loaded.”

There’s been no word on the payload if a December mission goes ahead, but SpaceX was scheduled to launch a fleet of 10 Iridium satellites this year before the explosion put a hold on plans.

The news also comes as the firm continues working towards the first launches of its Dragon 2 space capsule and Falcon Heavy rocket.

Author | Hadlee Simons

Hadlee Simons
Terrible puns make Hadlee Simons difficult to work with, but he brings over seven years of tech journalism experience to the table. When he's not at work or watching motorsport, he's in the foetal position on a jiu jitsu mat. More

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