The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently closed its investigation into SpaceX’s first orbital test flight in April. However, the FAA has stated that the company must complete over 60 corrective actions before they can proceed with a second launch.
SpaceX has completed its first orbital test flight with the Starship but requires over 60 corrective actions before being granted permission for a second launch by the FAA.
FAA’s Recommendations and SpaceX’s Upgrades
While the FAA did not disclose the specific details of the corrective actions, they did provide a list of some expected changes. These include hardware redesigns, modifications to the launch pad, and additional analysis and testing of safety critical systems.
In response to the FAA’s recommendations, SpaceX has stated that they are implementing several upgrades to the Starship and its infrastructure. The company claims that the lessons learned from the first launch are contributing to these improvements. They also mentioned that they are implementing unrelated upgrades, such as a new electric Thruster Vector Control system and a “hot-stage” separation system.
However, there appears to be a discrepancy between what Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, stated and the FAA’s statement. Musk, in a recent tweet, claimed that the Starship is ready to launch and is awaiting FAA license approval, with no mention of any remaining corrective actions or upgrades. This contradicts the FAA’s statement that SpaceX still has pending items to address.
The Mishap Investigation
The mishap investigation was initiated following the first flight test of the Starship on April 20. During the launch, the Super Heavy booster’s engines caused significant damage to the launch pad. Subsequently, engine failures led to an auto-destruct command, resulting in the rocket exploding midair.
Mishap investigations are a standard procedure for rocket launches that experience failures. In this case, SpaceX is leading the investigation, overseen by the FAA. The investigation report contains proprietary information and will not be made public.
While SpaceX continues to work on implementing the corrective actions recommended by the FAA, the approval for a second Starship launch remains pending. The company’s dedication to iterative development and continuous improvement, as demonstrated by their past achievements with Falcon, Dragon, and Starlink, will undoubtedly contribute to ensuring the safety and success of future Starship launches.