FAA Investigation Closes, SpaceX Nears Clearance for Third Starship Launch

SpaceX is nearing its clearance for the third Starship launch following the closure of a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigation that was caused by its second launch.


FAA Investigation and Corrective Actions

SpaceX’s second Integrated Flight Test (IFT-2) for Starship occurred on November 18, 2023, and two explosions that occurred during the launch caused the FAA to investigate.

Both Starship’s Super Heavy first-stage booster and its Upper Stage, which is called Starship, exploded roughly three-and-a-half and eight minutes after liftoff, respectively.

The FAA made it clear that several changes needed to be made to Starship in order to address various regulatory concerns, including those that have to do with safety and environmental impact.

Corrective Actions for Super Heavy Booster

The FAA required SpaceX to implement seventeen corrective actions, with seven of them specifically related to the Super Heavy first-stage booster. These actions include vehicle hardware redesigns, updated control system modeling, re-evaluation of engine analyses based on OTF-2 flight data, and updated engine control algorithms.

Corrective Actions for Upper Stage

Meanwhile, the remaining ten corrective actions were related to the upper stage of Starship. These actions involve vehicle hardware redesigns, operational changes, flammability analysis updates, installation of additional fire protection, and guidance and modeling updates.


Nearing a Test Flight

While corrective actions were required by the FAA, it does not significantly delay Starship’s next test flight. SpaceX only needs to modify its license and submit the necessary information to prove that the corrective actions have been implemented.

SpaceX plans to launch Starship at least nine times in 2024, and the company is expected to receive a flight license from the FAA once the remaining corrective actions are addressed.