Iridium officials early Sunday confirmed reports that the flight would be delayed to at least Jan. 14 — next Saturday — with an instantaneous launch opportunity at 9:54:34 a.m. PST (12:54:34 p.m. EST; 1754:34 GMT).
The 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket will remain in SpaceX’s hangar at Space Launch Complex 4-East until technicians roll the launcher to the pad in the final phase of launch preps. The rocket will be erected vertical ahead of the start of the final countdown a few hours before liftoff.
Fueling of the rocket with super-chilled RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen will begin around a half-hour before launch, and the Iridium satellites — designed and built by Thales Alenia Space and Orbital ATK — will be switched to internal battery power for the journey into orbit.
SpaceX completed a major preflight test Thursday, filling the Falcon 9 with propellants and helium pressurant on a launch pad for the first time since a rocket exploded at Cape Canaveral on Sept. 1. The “static fire” test culminated in the ignition of the first stage’s nine Merlin 1D engines for a few seconds, briefly ramping up to full power with 1.7 million pounds of thrust.
The Iridium Next system, the product of a nearly a decade of development and approximately $3 billion in investment, will replace the company’s current satellites providing global voice and data relay services.
SpaceX is under contract to launch at least seven times for the Iridium Next constellation.
SpaceX’s launch team will load warmer helium pressurant into the rocket to avoid a repeat of the 2016 rocket failure, and the company said it intends to change the design of the COPVs in the future to precent buckles altogether.
Launch moving due to high winds and rains at Vandenberg. Other range conflicts this week results in next available launch date being Jan 14.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 8, 2017
Iridium is excited to share we’re planned to launch on Monday, Jan 9 at 10:22am PST weather permitting. https://t.co/wiHgvdD6lk #IridiumNEXT
— Iridium Corporate (@IridiumComm) January 6, 2017