SpaceX continues to take steps to get its giant Starship rocket back in the air. Last week, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigated SpaceX engineers’ work with Starship. Approval from this body would be the only thing that would separate the company from its second flight test if it had not occurred You have 63 pending corrections. Elon Musk assures them that they have already completed them and opens the door to a new flight license.
Before the end of the week, two days after the FAA inspection, Elon Musk celebrated on his social network You have already met 57 of the conditions on this long list marked by the American inspection agency. The remaining ones would not be needed in the near future and would therefore be prepared for a new launch.
“Congratulations to SpaceX for completing and documenting the 57 elements required by the FAA for Starship Flight 2!” says the magnate. “It should be noted that six of the 63 points relate to subsequent flights,” he adds. These six points are marked as “future actions” in the screenshots shown by Musk, which would mean that they are not required to operate the second flight.
With this message, the company founder announces that his mega rocket is once again ready to demonstrate its capabilities; it is the largest ever built. It must be remembered that the first Starship flight took off on April 20, an operation that was declared a success despite the final explosion that destroyed the rocket and the impact that the ignition of the engines had on the environment around the launch base.
The damage caused by the rocket’s force prompted environmental groups to file a lawsuit with the FAA, demanding a broader review of the Starship launches’ impacts. The case is still in its early stages, which could be a problem for SpaceX’s agenda, which NASA also relies on as it fears for its Artemis missions to the moon.
Investigation of the error
Last Friday, SpaceX explained in a statement what the investigation had revealed about the problems that day. “During ascent, the vehicle suffered fires due to a fuel leak at the aft end of the Super Heavy booster, which ultimately lost connection to the vehicle’s main flight computer,” the SpaceX update said. “This resulted in a loss of communication with most of the propulsion motors and ultimately a loss of control of the vehicle.”
The 63 required corrections are no surprise to the company, as they were already taken into account in the investigation following the outcome of the first flight. The FAA reviewed the SpaceX report, agreed with the company’s conclusions, and closed the investigation.
Although the FAA cannot release the entire report because it contains SpaceX’s proprietary information, it notes that some of the necessary fixes include redesigns of the rocket to prevent leaks and fires, as well as additional analysis and testing of safety systems, including the flight abort. Improvements to the launch pad were also called for.
SpaceX has spent all these months developing these modifications to ensure the next flight ends better. SpaceX has made more than 1,000 changes to the ship and rocket to make it less destructive and more practical to launch. For example, a large steel plate and a water flooding system were added to minimize damage from launch.
Waiting for the license
Elon Musk’s announcement suggests that SpaceX is ready to overcome all the bureaucratic hurdles that lie ahead, but the FAA already made it clear on Friday: “SpaceX must implement any corrective actions that impact public safety and apply for and receive a license modification from the FAA that meets all applicable regulatory, environmental and safety requirements prior to Starship’s upcoming launch.”
Only after receiving the license from this body can the company Consider requesting a start window and optional dates for a new attempt. Time is of the essence for the company, which must support NASA on future missions to the Moon and Mars, which are already experiencing significant delays and over-budget costs.