Of the few thousand satellites that have been launched into space by humankind since the first -- Sputnik I by Russia -- in October 1957, just over 1,400 are estimated to be still operational. And now, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk wants to add another 4,425 to that orbiting mass. In an application filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, Musk's commercial space launch company SpaceX sought permission to launch a massive constellation of satellites that will provide high-speed internet coverage to the entire planet. In the technical documents with its filing, the company said: "The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide." The plan envisages the launch of 1,600 satellites in the first phase, of which about 800 would expand and improve internet coverage over the United States, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Since the Sept. 1 accident in which a Falcon 9 rocket blew up while being refueled on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX has issued multiple updates about its investigation into the incident. The last official update from the company came Oct. 28, in which it said it had identified the cause behind the explosion, and in an interview a week later, founder Elon Musk gave some more details about the nature of the problem, which involved "a combination of liquid helium, advanced carbon fiber composites and solid oxygen" in the refueling process. The company also plans to resume flight operations before the year is over, which is to say, in the next one month. However, to do that, it needs to first submit an official report to federal authorities. And it plans to do that sometime early in December, according to a report Monday in the Wall Street Journal.
After its rocket explosion on a Cape Canaveral launch pad on Sept. 1, SpaceX had announced it would release an initial assessment in early December detailing exactly went wrong that day and what can be learned to avoid potential disasters. The upcoming findings, news agencies reported Monday, would be a first step toward a required finalized investigation into the incident before NASA can green light new SpaceX launches before the New Year. The explosion was likely the result of a breach in pressurized helium containers, sources close to the ongoing investigation told the Wall Street Journal. To test that theory, engineers have been trying to recreate the rupture with the same specifications including pressure and temperature. "We're finalizing the investigation and its accompanying report, and aim to return to flight in December," a SpaceX spokesperson said.
LOS ANGELES – SpaceX plans to resume flights as early as next week after finding the cause of an explosion that destroyed a rocket and satellite on a Florida launch pad in September. The Hawthorne, California-based company is aiming for a Sunday, Jan. 8, flight from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday. The launch still needs approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. The company said its investigation of the Sept. 1 explosion found that a tank failed within the larger, second-stage liquid oxygen tank. SpaceX plans to launch 10 satellites for Iridium Communications Inc. on a Falcon 9 rocket.
Private aerospace company SpaceX was scheduled to return to launching rockets before the end of 2016, but the company announced Wednesday it is delaying its planned flights until the next year. Instead of stepping back onto the launch pad in December, SpaceX instead plans to fire up its rockets once again in early 2017. The company hasn't set an official date, but did say it intends to launch again in January. The continued delay of SpaceX's return to flight is the result of the company's ongoing investigation into an explosion that doomed the launch of the company's Falcon 9 rocket in September. The accident has been referred to by SpaceX as an anomaly.