SpaceX Starship Not Ready for Next Launch, Says FAA

Starship september 2023

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not granted SpaceX the green light for another test flight of its Starship Super Heavy launch vehicle. This announcement comes after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk expressed readiness for the launch, pending FAA licensing.

Musk stated on X, “Starship is ready to launch, awaiting FAA license approval.”

This holdup is rooted in an explosive incident during the Starship’s initial test flight in April 2023. The massive 400-foot-tall rocket experienced severe technical issues. Despite managing a three-minute flight, the rocket lost several engines, damaged ground infrastructure, and failed to ascend to space. Eventually, the Starship began to tumble, leading to its deliberate destruction in mid-air.

This explosion resulted in a crater, propelling concrete debris towards adjacent tanks and equipment. The aftermath also affected a delicate ecosystem home to endangered wildlife, igniting a roughly 4-acre fire on state park land.

Addressing the incident, the FAA issued a statement saying, “The SpaceX Starship mishap investigation remains open. The FAA will not authorize another Starship launch until SpaceX implements the corrective actions identified during the mishap investigation and demonstrates compliance with all the regulatory requirements of the license modification process,” said the FAA to CNBC.

The FAA was tasked in July with presenting its findings to the Senate and House appropriations committees prior to approving any forthcoming Starship Super Heavy launches.

SpaceX’s Starship program is of paramount importance, especially as NASA increasingly depends on SpaceX for orbital human transportation from the U.S. The program’s goal is to efficiently send substantial scientific equipment to orbit, facilitating more substantial cargo and personnel trips to the Moon and eventually Mars.

However, this isn’t the first time Musk and the FAA have been at odds. In December 2020, Musk defied FAA regulations, pushing SpaceX to test the SN8 rocket, which led to its explosion. Moreover, recent unpermitted tests of a water deluge system in Texas by SpaceX have raised environmental concerns.

Despite these challenges, Musk continues to be a pivotal figure in space exploration and transportation, even as he navigates complex relationships with regulatory bodies and Congress.