Elon Musk’s Starship Cleared for Second Launch Attempt
This Tuesday, SpaceX took a major step forward by stacking its Starship rocket atop a Super Heavy booster in South Texas. They’re now gearing up for a second launch attempt. Elon Musk posted on X, which we all used to know as Twitter, saying, “Starship is ready to launch, awaiting FAA license approval.”
But that FAA approval is the big wildcard here. They’re still going through all the data and paperwork from SpaceX‘s first Starship launch attempt back in April 2023. That test flight was cut short—lasting only about 90 seconds—due to issues with the engine and the booster. The FAA is not only looking at what went wrong but also considering the environmental impact at the launch site and why the rocket’s flight termination system kicked in later than expected.
After the mishap, SpaceX didn’t waste any time and sent a “mishap investigation report” over to the FAA. Once the FAA reviews it, they’ll tell SpaceX what needs fixing before the rocket can take to the skies again. This is especially crucial because the South Texas launch site is surrounded by sensitive wetlands and is close to the Gulf of Mexico, so safety is a top concern for people, property, and wildlife in the area.
The FAA might be sharing some updates on SpaceX’s regulatory approval process soon. As of Wednesday morning, when asked about the progress, an FAA spokesman hinted that more details might be on the way. And sure enough, by 6 pm ET, the FAA had something to say.
They shared, “The SpaceX Starship mishap investigation is still ongoing. We won’t give the green light for another Starship launch until SpaceX has addressed all the concerns from the investigation. They’ll also have to prove they’ve met all the requirements for modifying their license.”
All this comes after SpaceX was hard at work over the summer at the South Texas launch site. They’ve been busy getting everything ready for a second shot at launching the Starship. Let’s not forget what happened during the first launch in April – the absence of a proper sound suppression system caused significant damage. Chunks of concrete from the launch pad broke off and flew everywhere, scattering debris all around the Starbase location in South Texas. Since then, SpaceX has rolled up its sleeves and built a new water deluge and flame deflector for the Starship launch mount to prevent a repeat of last time’s issues.
SpaceX has been busy tweaking its Starship rocket for its next big test flight, whenever that might be. One cool feature they’ve added is what they’re calling a “hot staging ring.” Basically, it’s a setup that lets the engines on the upper stage of the Starship ignite even before the first stage is done burning fuel. It’s tricky stuff, but if it works, the rocket will be able to carry even more weight into orbit.
In preparation for the upcoming launch, the company’s been running tests on the booster, known as Booster 9, as well as on the Starship upper stage, called Ship 25. Good news: the hardware has mostly passed these tests with flying colors.
For the next flight, there won’t be any payloads onboard. The aim is to test the power of the booster’s 33 Raptor engines, nail the stage separation, and get Starship’s six engines fired up. If all goes as planned, the Starship will go nearly three-quarters of the way around Earth and then splash down north of Hawaii, in the Pacific Ocean.
We’re still waiting on the okay from the Federal Aviation Administration for the launch date, but don’t expect any action until at least mid-September.