SpaceX Starship Launch Possible by Early October, Says FAA

The acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Polly Trottenberg, indicated on Wednesday that SpaceX could receive a launch license for its Starship rocket as early as next month. The announcement comes after the FAA concluded its technical investigation into SpaceX’s April test launch, which ended in an explosion.

Trottenberg made the comments on the sidelines of a conference, stating, “We’re working well with them and have been in good discussions. Teams are working together and I think we’re optimistic sometime next month.”

However, she did not specify the timeline for SpaceX to receive separate environmental approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, reports Reuters.

The FAA’s investigation into the April 20 test launch of SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy rocket revealed “multiple root causes” for the failure. The rocket had successfully lifted off from its Texas launchpad but exploded approximately four minutes into its flight while attempting a crucial space-reaching demonstration. The FAA has mandated 63 corrective actions, including hardware modifications to prevent leaks and fires, as well as reinforcing the launchpad to mitigate debris and sand hazards.

“The closure of the mishap investigation does not signal an immediate resumption of Starship launches at Boca Chica,” the FAA noted last month, referring to SpaceX’s primary Starship launch site in south Texas.

The conclusion of the FAA’s investigation brings SpaceX one step closer to achieving its long-sought goal of launching Starship into space for the first time. This is a significant milestone before the rocket can be used for commercial satellite missions and human lunar landings for NASA.

Elon Musk, CEO and founder of SpaceX, later queried the FAA about the specifics of the 63 corrective actions in a public post. According to FAA regulations, SpaceX led the investigation into the Starship failure and largely drafted the list of corrective actions, which the agency must approve before issuing a new launch license.

SpaceX is required to obtain a modified FAA license for the Starship launch, which involves a comprehensive review of the rocket’s flight trajectory, accident probabilities, and other factors that could impact public safety.