SpaceX Asks FAA for Increased Starship Launches in 2024

SpaceX is gearing up for its first Starship launch of 2024 from the Starbase facility in South Texas, potentially within the next three weeks.

Elon Musk’s company is in discussions with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to expedite the launch-licensing process in hopes of increasing its flight cadence.

Kelvin Coleman, the FAA’s Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, highlighted the company’s ambitious launch schedule during a press event. “They’re looking at a pretty aggressive launch schedule this year,” Coleman stated. “They’re looking at, I believe, at least nine launches this year. That’s a lot of launches,” reports ArsTechnica.

SpaceX’s push for a higher launch frequency follows the FAA’s Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment in June 2022, which initially approved up to five Starship launches annually from South Texas. An FAA official confirmed SpaceX’s request to modify this limit to accommodate more flights.

The company’s journey with Starship, the largest rocket intended for full reusability, began with its inaugural launch in April 2023. Despite causing significant damage to the launch site and environmental concerns, SpaceX’s subsequent launch in November saw improvements, with the first-stage booster completing a mostly nominal flight.

Musk is targeting an early to mid-March window for Starship’s third launch attempt, aiming for orbit. Coleman remarked on the proposed timeline, “That sounds about right from a regulatory standpoint.”

The FAA is also addressing staffing needs to keep pace with the growing demand for spaceflight licensing. Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX Vice President of Build and Flight Reliability, advocated for increased FAA resources during congressional testimony last October.

Reflecting on the agency’s evolution, Coleman shared, “When I joined the Commercial Space Transportation arm of the FAA in 1996, the organization had 40 employees… Now there are 143, and the organization is ‘aggressively’ seeking to grow.”

It’s clear the only thing stopping SpaceX from increasing its flight and innovating with Starship is the FAA. Hopefully the FAA will grant SpaceX more freedom to have more launches so it can learn and adapt its advanced rocket, that will eventually be destined for the Moon and Mars.