Elon Musk's Assurance: Starship Is 'Launch-Ready,' but FAA's Caution Flags Wave

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has officially concluded its investigation into SpaceX's inaugural orbital test flight back in April
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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has officially concluded its investigation into SpaceX's inaugural orbital test flight back in April. However, regulatory approval for a second launch won't be granted until SpaceX fulfills over 60 necessary "corrective actions."

While the FAA hasn't revealed the precise details of these 63 actions SpaceX must undertake before greenlighting another Starship launch, they have shared a partial list of expectations. This includes redesigning vehicle hardware, making adjustments to the launch pad, and conducting additional analyses and safety system testing.

Only after SpaceX successfully implements all the corrective actions will they be eligible to apply for a modified FAA license to proceed with Starship launches. Importantly, the FAA emphasized that the mishap investigation's closure doesn't imply an immediate resumption of Starship launches at the Boca Chica facility in Texas.

In a timely update on its website, SpaceX mentioned that they are incorporating "lessons learned" from the initial Starship launch into various upgrades for the vehicle and ground infrastructure. They underlined their rapid iterative development approach, which has driven progress in their previous projects like Falcon, Dragon, and Starlink.

SpaceX also disclosed that they were implementing unrelated upgrades, such as a new electric Thruster Vector Control system for Super Heavy's engines and a "hot-stage" separation system for Starship's second-stage engines.

However, the specific details of the corrective actions remain undisclosed, leaving us uncertain about the progress SpaceX has made on the 63-point list and their proximity to relaunching Starship.

Notably, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's recent statement on social media seemed to indicate readiness for launch, stating, "Starship is ready to launch, awaiting FAA license approval," without mentioning any outstanding corrective actions or upgrades.

The first orbital flight test of the massive 394-foot-tall Starship took place on April 20. During this launch, the powerful thrust from Super Heavy's 33 Raptor engines caused damage to the launch pad, sending debris flying for miles. Subsequently, several engines on the rocket shut down, leading to an auto-destruct command and the rocket's mid-air explosion approximately four minutes after liftoff. This incident prompted the mishap investigation.

Mishap investigations are a standard procedure for rocket launches that experience difficulties, typically led by the company (in this case, SpaceX) and overseen by the FAA, which regulates launch safety. The FAA has stated that the investigation contains proprietary information and won't be made public.