SpaceX Yet To Secure Regulatory Approval for Starship Launch
SpaceX has no green light to conduct another test flight of its Starship Super Heavy launch vehicle. That’s the stance held by the US Federal Aviation Administration, coming on the heels of CEO Elon Musk insisting they are ready to launch. Reports indicate the aerospace and Defense Company is yet to meet requirements to be able to fly again after an explosion early in the year.
In April, SpaceX was dealt a significant blow after its first Starship launch imploded in a catastrophic way after launching for more than three minutes. The starship lost multiple engines after launching and fell to the ground, affecting the ground infrastructure. The fact that the implosion triggered a crater in the ground, flung concrete chunks, and also impacted the sensitive habitat of endangered habitats triggered an investigation from the FAA.
The FAA is responsible for protecting the public during commercial space transportation launches. Therefore, it is mandated to conduct an in-depth investigation of the matter to ensure all loopholes are sealed before SpaceX is allowed to carry out another launch. Consequently, the agency has confirmed that the mishap investigation is still open, which means SpaceX cannot proceed with any launch until it is closed.
Until the aerospace giant implements corrective actions and demonstrates compliance with all regulatory requirements, its starship will remain grounded. The grounding comes amid a deteriorating relationship between Musk and federal regulators.
Musk vs. Regulators
The SpaceX CEO has found himself in hot soup with the regulators on flouting several FAA requirements in the past. For instance, in 2020, the executive pushed the company to go against the regulators orders and conduct a rocket test flight on a date it was explicitly prohibited. In the end, the SN8 rocket exploded midair.
In the most recent past, SpaceX conducted a test on a water deluge system designed to keep the company’s launch pad cool during launches. The fact that the tests were conducted without authorization or environmental permits has plunged the company into trouble with regulators.
Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that the company will be grounded for long, given the role it plays. NASA, the country’s space agency, relies on Elon Musk’s company to transport people and equipment from the US to orbit.
Therefore, any grounding derails the agency’s programs and plans. In addition, SpaceX is also planning to move heavy equipment to orbit as it also plans to make space tourism work with plans to move people to the moon and eventually Mars.
SpaceX is one of the most important pieces of the Musk Empire. Over the years, the billionaire investor has turned to the aerospace company to back up his other ventures. For instance, he borrowed $20 million from the company to help the then-struggling Tesla, which was on the brink of collapse in 2008. Likewise, he used the company to offer support to Solar City in 2015 and 2016 when it was experiencing a period of financial difficulties.
While Musk is the majority shareholder at SpaceX, some investors have questioned his actions of diverting resources from the company to another enterprise. His actions have paid off as Tesla has found its foot and accounts for the biggest chunk of his net worth.