FAA Finds 17 Corrective Actions For SpaceX After Second Starship Explosion

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by Tyler Durden
Tuesday, Feb 27, 2024 - 08:20 PM

The US Federal Aviation Administration has completed its investigation into the second flight of SpaceX's Starship rocket, which ended in an explosion in late 2023. Following the investigation, the space exploration company and the FAA agreed on new procedures before the next launch. 

SpaceX pinpointed the root causes of the explosion, which were then acknowledged and accepted by the FAA. These corrective measures include hardware redesigns, updated control system modeling, re-evaluation of engine analyses, updated engine control algorithms, operational changes, flammability analysis updates, and installation of additional fire protection. 

"Prior to the next launch, SpaceX must implement all corrective actions and receive a license modification from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental and other applicable regulatory requirements," regulators wrote in an emailed statement. 

"The FAA is evaluating SpaceX's license modification request and expects SpaceX to submit additional required information before a final determination can be made," they added.

To recap on the Starship mishap during the mid-November launch that prompted an FAA investigation, Houston Chronicle explains here: 

During the launch on Nov. 18 that sparked the review, all 33 of the Super Heavy rocket engines ignited and burned for their full duration. Then the rocket separated from the Starship spacecraft using a new hot-stage technique that fired Starship's engines while it was still attached to the rocket.

Super Heavy was supposed to land in the Gulf of Mexico. It ignited 13 of its 33 engines to return for the landing, but several engines began shutting down and one engine "failed energetically," SpaceX said. The booster ultimately blew up more than three and a half minutes into the flight when the rocket was about 55 miles above the Gulf of Mexico, SpaceX said in an update released Monday.

Meanwhile, the Starship spacecraft successfully lit its six engines and began traveling toward its intended landing site off the coast of Hawaii. It began venting liquid oxygen propellant as planned, but a leak developed that led to a fire. Communications were lost between the spacecraft's flight computers. 

The onboard flight termination system blew up the spacecraft when it was roughly 93 miles above the Earth, according to SpaceX.

Before the next launch, SpaceX must implement corrective actions and receive a license modification from the FAA. 

"More Starships are ready to fly, putting flight hardware in a flight environment to learn as quickly as possible," the company said. 

Some X users speculate the next Starship launch could happen as soon as next month. As noted above, SpaceX would have to receive the launch license first. 

Earlier this month, Elon Musk posted an image of the Starship stack at SpaceX facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. 

Is Jeff Bezos still in the rocket game? There is very little news coming from Blue Origin.