The next giant Starship rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX stands on a launch pad in South Texas. But the Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that the company must take “corrective actions” before issuing a launch license for the second flight.
A number that sums it up: 63 corrective actions required.
The first test flight of Starship was successfully launched on April 20. After a few minutes, it began to spiral out of control and then ended with an explosion caused by its flight termination system, which is designed to prevent out-of-control missiles from crashing. To a populated area. The rocket reached an altitude of 24 miles above the Gulf of Mexico, well short of reaching orbit, though SpaceX employees popped champagne in celebration of what the flight had managed to accomplish.
in posted on its website on FridaySpaceX described the problems.
“During ascent, the vehicle experienced fires due to a fuel leak in the rear of the Super Heavy booster, which eventually disconnected the vehicle’s primary flight computer,” the SpaceX update said. “This resulted in a loss of communications with the majority of the booster motors and, ultimately, control of the vehicle.”
The launch also caused significant damage to the launch pad, blowing off chunks of concrete in the surroundings and sending up clouds of dirt that reached a small town six miles from the launch site.
The FAA said the 63 corrective actions described in the final investigation report included redesigning the missile to prevent leaks and fires and conducting additional analysis and testing of safety systems including the flight termination system.
He also called for improvements to the operating panel. SpaceX spent several months adding a large steel plate and water-flooding system to reduce take-off damage.
The FAA said the investigative report will not be made public because it includes information proprietary to SpaceX and also data restricted by US export controls.
None of the 63 corrective actions will come as a surprise to SpaceX because the company conducted the investigation and determined what caused the malfunctions that occurred during the launch in April and what needed to be fixed. The FAA reviewed SpaceX’s report, agreed with the company’s findings, and closed the investigation.
What it looked like: Watch the recent launch in two videos.
SpaceX video captured the launch of the massive rocket and the moment the rocket started spinning out of control before it exploded.
Other footage showed the size of the cloud of dirt and debris resulting from the launch.
Background: Musk’s Moon and Mars rocket mission.
Sitting atop the SuperHeavy booster platform, the Starship is the largest rocket ever built, and is a key part of Mr. Musk’s vision to establish a colony on Mars. The rocket is designed to be completely reusable. The booster, after providing thrust for the first few minutes of flight, is slated to drop and land on the launch pad. The spacecraft’s upper section then continues to rotate. It can also return to Earth, floundering through the atmosphere before spinning in a vertical direction for descent.
As part of the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, NASA has set SpaceX to build a version of the Starship to carry astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface. The first moon landing, during the Artemis 3 mission, is currently scheduled for late December 2025. But that schedule will almost certainly be delayed. SpaceX must first perform an unmanned test landing.
What’s next: Another test flight of the giant rocket.
On Tuesday, Musk posted on X, the social networking site formerly known as Twitter that he owns, that “Starship is ready to launch, pending FAA approval.”
The FAA said closing the launch investigation in April does not mean the next launch is imminent.
“SpaceX must implement all corrective actions affecting public safety and apply for and obtain a license amendment from the FAA that addresses all applicable safety, environmental, and other regulatory requirements prior to the next Starship launch,” the agency said.
Environmental groups have He filed a lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration Call for a more comprehensive review of the effects of spacecraft launches. The case is still in its initial stages.
SpaceX has not set a target date for the second launch.
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