The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released its report on the Starship Heavy test launch conducted by SpaceX at its Boca Chica launch facility. The launch, which resulted in the scattering of dirt and debris across a wide area, has prompted the FAA to recommend 63 corrective actions for SpaceX to implement before conducting any further launch activities.
The FAA has concluded its investigation into the Starship Heavy test launch incident at SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch facility. The report identified multiple root causes for the launch failure and recommended 63 corrective actions for SpaceX. The company must implement these actions and obtain a modified launch license before conducting any further test launches.
Multiple Root Causes
The FAA report, based on an investigation led by SpaceX and overseen by the agency, has identified multiple root causes for the issues encountered during the Starship Heavy test launch. The incident, which occurred on April 20, 2023, saw the launch pad sustain significant damage and nearby structures and vehicles being affected by the debris.
Although SpaceX considered the test launch a success, the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy booster did not reach orbit as intended. The force of lift-off caused extensive damage to the launch pad, resulting in the dispersal of debris. The safety implications of this incident were a cause for concern and led to the FAA’s involvement in the investigation.
Despite the incident, SpaceX has been actively preparing for another test launch at the Boca Chica facility. The company has displayed another fully-stacked Starship and Super Heavy booster, signaling its readiness for further trials pending the results of the investigation.
FAA Requirements for Resumption
The FAA has clarified that the closure of its investigation does not indicate an immediate resumption of Starship launches at Boca Chica. To ensure public safety, SpaceX must adhere to the 63 corrective actions recommended by the FAA. Although specific details of these actions have not been disclosed, their implementation is crucial to address the issues encountered during the test launch.
Modified Launch License
Once SpaceX has satisfactorily implemented the corrective actions, the company will need to apply for a modified launch license. This license will need to meet all safety, environmental, and regulatory requirements before another test launch can be conducted. The FAA’s thorough assessment and approval process aim to ensure that future launches prioritize the safety of both the public and the environment.