Advanced Television

FAA to Musk: “Starship must first be fixed”

September 11, 2023

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has given SpaceX a list of 63 tasks that must be carried out before the new Starship rocket can be launched. Elon Musk has Tweeted that the rocket is ready for launch.

On the upside, the FAA has closed its investigation as to what went wrong on the Starship’s first launch to 39 kms – but ultimate failure – on April 20th this year.

Musk, in his Tweet, says there have been “thousands” of upgrades, over and above the FAA list to the Starship rocket and its much-damaged launch pad.

The post-launch investigation which SpaceX carried out under FAA oversight identified “multiple root causes” of the April failure and 63 corrective actions the company “must take to prevent mishap reoccurrence,” FAA officials stated.

Nevertheless, the end of the formal investigation creates a major step nearer for second Starship test flight.

“The closure of the mishap investigation does not signal an immediate resumption of Starship launches at Boca Chica,” said the FAA. “SpaceX must implement all corrective actions that impact public safety and apply for and receive a licence modification from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental and other applicable regulatory requirements prior to the next Starship launch.”

To put the challenge into context, the rocket is the heaviest-ever, and the most powerful rocket ever built and creates twice the thrust of any NASA rocket.

The key task – amongst the 63 – was in finding out why the rocket’s upper stage failed to separate from the lower ‘booster’ stage.

The FAA was firm in its set of instructions, saying: “Corrective actions include redesigns of vehicle hardware to prevent leaks and fires, redesign of the launch pad to increase its robustness, incorporation of additional reviews in the design process, additional analysis and testing of safety critical systems and components including the Autonomous Flight Safety System, and the application of additional change control practices.”

The FAA did not make public its full list of the 63 remedial actions needed, but Musk published the complete list and which also added the items which had been completed.

Certainly Musk’s critics – of which there are many – suggested that a second Starship flight this year was impossible. The SpaceX team are close to proving those critics very wrong. It may still be a few weeks before the flight happens, but a 5-month or so gap between the failure and launch Number 2 is praiseworthy by anyone’s measure.

And given that follow-on rockets are lining up at the South Texas launch facility it is probable that the 5-month gap will be the longest-ever for the SpaceX engineers. A successful second flight will see a rapid adoption to a more frequent launch pattern.

Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to carry out what are now super-routine launches of its Falcon 9 rockets, with a flawless launch of 22 satellites on September 8th and taking the overall total launched to an impressive 5,070 of which 4,724 are in orbit.

Categories: Blogs, Broadband, Inside Satellite, Satellite

Tags: , , ,