SpaceX is releasing its StarShip spacecraft test and development program APSE, and as of this afternoon it has authorization from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct its next three test flights from its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. The evaluation for the pre-launch tests has been unilateral, but the FAA said in a statement that it is approving them in a batch because “SpaceX made some changes to the launch vehicle and the FAA’s ability to calculate the risk to the public The approved methodology is relied upon. “
SpaceX is set to launch its SN15 test starship earlier this week, with the condition that an FAA inspector be present at the facility in Boca Chica. The regulator says it has dispatched an inspector, which is expected to arrive today, which could pave the way for a possible launch effort in the next few days.
The final test flight from Boca Chica was SpaceX’s attempted SN11 launch, which took place in late March. It ended badly after a successful initial climb at an altitude of about 30,000 feet and, with the flip maneuver, exploded due to an error in one of the Raptor engines, which controlled the vehicle’s powered landing.
In its statement regarding the authorization of the next three attempts, the FAA mentioned that investigations into what happened to SN11 and its unfortunate termination are still ongoing, but also said that any public safety related to what the agency did Concerns have determined the wrong has been minimized.
The three-launch approval license includes flights to SN 16 and SN 17 as well as SN 15, but the FAA noted that after the first flight, the next two may require additional “corrective action”, in fact any Also with the launch of SN15 before the new “accident” is pending.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has at times criticized the FAA for not being flexible or responsive to the rapid pace of iteration and SpaceX is following in the development of the starship. On the other hand, members of Congress have suggested that the FAA was probably not as essential in independently investigating an earlier starship test accident. The administration believes that the lack of any eventual consequential impact on public safety is a sign of the success of its program.