SpaceX submits mishap investigation report to FAA for Starship Rocket launch

Elon Musk and the Up-Goer Starship SN9. Credit: Steve Jurvetson / Wikimedia Commons

SpaceX has submitted a final mishap investigation report to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), detailing the company’s explosive test launch of its Starship rocket. 

The FAA will now review the application and consider public safety, national security, and foreign policy concerns. It will also evaluate insurance requirements for SpaceX and assess the potential environmental impact of the planned operations. 

“When a final mishap report is approved, it will identify the corrective actions SpaceX must make,” the FAA said in a statement on August 15, 2023. “Separately, SpaceX must modify its license to incorporate those actions before receiving authorization to launch again.” 

While the timeline for this process remains undisclosed, during a discussion with journalist Ashlee Vance on X (formerly known as Twitter) on June 24, 2023, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the company has already implemented more than 1,000 design changes to its Starship rocket since the first launch.  

Moreover, on August 6, 2023, SpaceX conducted a mostly successful static fire test of its Starship Super Heavy Booster 9, which is the ninth booster prototype for the Starship launch vehicle system. 

To prevent further issues, SpaceX has rebuilt the launch pad, replacing the concrete under the booster with a steel plate and introducing a water deluge system to reduce noise, debris, and pad damage. Yet, the test was cut short at 2.7 seconds out of a planned five-second test, and four engines shut down prematurely. 

Starship development is not only crucial to the future of SpaceX, but it also plays a key role in NASA‘s Artemis program for lunar missions. 

Specifically, a lunar version of the Starship spacecraft, known as Lunar Starship, has been chosen as the Human Landing System that will transport astronauts from lunar orbit to the Moon’s surface and back. 

However, testing delays and the need for an uncrewed landing demonstration of the Starship on the lunar surface raises questions about whether SpaceX can meet the deadlines. 

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