Starship’s Second Orbital Launch Date In Flux as FAA Orders ‘Corrective Actions’

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said Starship is technically really to launch.

Starship mishap
Debris litters the launch pad and dmaged tanks (R rear) on April 22, 2023, after the SpaceX Starship lifted off on April 20 for a flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

SpaceX’s giant Mars-bound rocket Starship is unlikely to attempt its second orbital flight anytime soon, despite CEO Elon Musk declaring the rocket is technically ready to launch. The Federal Aviation Administration today (Sept. 8) told SpaceX it needs to take 63 corrective actions on Starship before it can fly again, according to a letter signed by FAA’s safety assurance manager Marcus Ward seen by Observer.

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The decision marks the end of a four-month mishap investigation led by SpaceX and supervised by the FAA into Starship’s first orbital test flight in April, which ended in explosion. A mishap investigation is part of a standard procedure following an anomaly during a rocket launch.

Read Also: 4 Missions for SpaceX’s Starship Before Colonizing Mars

“The final report cites multiple root causes of the April 20, 2023, mishap and 63 corrective actions SpaceX must take to prevent mishap reoccurrence,” FAA spokesperson Steven Kulm said in an email to Observer.

The corrective actions include “redesigns of vehicle hardware to prevent leaks and fires, redesign of the launch pad to increase its robustness, incorporation of additional reviews in the design process, additional analysis and testing of safety critical systems and components including the Autonomous Flight Safety System, and the application of additional change control practices,” the email said. 

Besides the technical fixes, SpaceX must also apply for a license modification from the FAA, the agency said. 

The FAA didn’t publish the mishap investigation report because “it contains proprietary data and U.S Export Control information,” Kulm said.

SpaceX conducted the first orbital test of Starship on April 20 from the company’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The nearly 400-foot-tall spacecraft lifted off successfully and soared about 20 miles into the sky before blowing up. The explosion damaged the rocket’s launch pad and scattered debris and dust for miles.

Since then, SpaceX has been preparing a new Starship prototype for a second test. CEO Musk teased multiple times the test could happen in July or August. Yesterday, he tweeted “Starship is ready to launch, awaiting FAA license approval” along with a video of a fully stacked Starship standing on a launch pad in Boca Chica.

Starship’s Second Orbital Launch Date In Flux as FAA Orders ‘Corrective Actions’