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SpaceX has begun placing the ten Iridium satellites inside their Falcon 9 housing in preparation for its next launch, now planned for no earlier than January 7.
The first 10 satellites for Iridium’s next-generation mobile voice and data relay network have been fueled, joined with their deployment module and encapsulated inside the clamshell-like nose cone of a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster for launch as soon as next week from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. SpaceX and Iridium have not announced a target launch date, but engineers are aiming to have the mission ready for liftoff by Jan. 7. That schedule is still very preliminary.
An official target launch date is pending the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the SpaceX-led investigation into the explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral on Sept. 1, which destroyed the Israeli-owned Amos 6 communications satellite awaiting liftoff a few days later.
The article also has this interesting tidbit:
After the Falcon 9 rocket completes its pre-flight “static fire” test on the launch pad — the same test that resulted in the explosion in Florida on Sept. 1 — the 10 Iridium Next satellites will be mated with the booster for liftoff.
This suggests that SpaceX is changing its launch procedures, whereby before it would do the static fire dress rehearsal with the payload already loaded on the rocket. For this launch at least they are going to do that dress rehearsal before installing the payload on the rocket.