Elon Musk: Starship Is Ready for Launch. FAA: Not So Fast

Agency says investigation into disastrous first launch is still open
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2023 9:30 AM CDT
Musk Says Starship Is Ready for Second Launch
SpaceX's Starship rocked exploded minutes after blasting off on it first test flight and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

More than four months after the most powerful rocket ever created exploded soon after liftoff, SpaceX is ready to try again. The company has stacked its Starship rocket on top of a Super Heavy booster at its launch pad in Boca Chica in southern Texas. "Starship is ready to launch, awaiting FAA license approval," Elon Musk tweeted Tuesday night—but it's not clear when, or even if, approval will be granted. The agency is still investigating the April 20 launch, which wrecked the concrete launch pad, causing dust to land as far as 6 miles away, the Houston Chronicle reports. The rocket self-destructed for safety reasons after it failed to separate from the booster.

"The SpaceX Starship mishap investigation remains open," the agency said Wednesday. "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." This summer has seen what Ars Technica calls a "frenetic" burst of activity at the launch site, including construction and testing of a new flame-deflector system to ensure future launches don't destroy the launch pad.

The FAA is facing a lawsuit from environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, which says the April launch the agency allowed damaged habitats for endangered species. It's not clear whether another launch will be allowed while the lawsuit is ongoing, but lead attorney Jared Margolis tells Spaceflight Now that the group would like the FAA to make it clear that "no further launches will be permitted until all applicable environmental laws are complied with." (More Starship stories.)

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