SpaceX had to scrub a satellite rideshare mission in Florida Tuesday due to a helicopter entering the launch range during the final countdown. And CEO Elon Musk blamed the incident on airspace regulators.
Taking to Twitter to vent his frustration, Musk posted, “Unfortunately, the launch is called off for today, as an aircraft entered the ‘keep out zone’, which is unreasonably gigantic. There is simply no way that humanity can become a spacefaring civilization without major regulatory reform. The current regulatory system is broken.”
Unfortunately, launch is called off for today, as an aircraft entered the “keep out zone”, which is unreasonably gigantic.
There is simply no way that humanity can become a spacefaring civilization without major regulatory reform. The current regulatory system is broken.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 29, 2021
Tuesday’s launch, officially called Transporter 2, was supposed to send 88 small satellites to orbit. It would have been SpaceX’s 20th mission of this year. The next launch window will open at 2:56 p.m. ET Wednesday. You can watch the live coverage of the second attempt on SpaceX’s YouTube channel.
It’s not the first time Musk has blamed launch delays on regulators. A central issue, according to him, is that the existing space regulatory framework doesn’t work for SpaceX’s increasingly busy launch schedule. In 2021 so far, the company has been, on average, launching a Falcon 9 rocket every nine days, a pace never seen in the industry before.
“Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure,” Musk tweeted in January after the FAA postponed SpaceX’s test flight with the Starship prototype SN9. “Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.”
But his attitude would sometimes turn 180-degree, especially when regulators let him have his way.
For example, when the Federal Communications Commission approved SpaceX’s third modification to its Starlink license (despite strong opposition from competitors including Amazon and Viasat) in April, Musk tweeted, “FCC is fair and sensible.”
“HTSA and FAA, too,” he said in the same tweet. “99.9% of the time, I agree with regulators! On rare occasions, we disagree. This is almost always due to new technologies that past regulations didn’t anticipate.”
FCC is fair & sensible. NHTSA & FAA too. 99.9% of the time, I agree with regulators!
On rare occasions, we disagree. This is almost always due to new technologies that past regulations didn’t anticipate.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 27, 2021
The FCC is the main regulator of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite program, while the FAA grants launch licenses for both SpaceX’s operational missions and test flights. The agency has had issues with SpaceX violating launch licenses in the past, most recently the company high-altitude test with the Starship prototype SN8 in December 2020.