FAA Approves Second Starship Test Flight, SpaceX Targeting Friday

FAA Approves Second Starship Test Flight, SpaceX Targeting Friday

The FAA said today that SpaceX has met all the requirements to obtain a license to launch the next Starship test flight. SpaceX quickly announced it is targeting Friday, November 17. The two-hour launch window at Boca Chica, Texas opens at 7:00 am Central Time (8:00 am Eastern).  SpaceX will webcast the launch beginning approximately 30 minutes before liftoff. [Update, November 16: The launch has been postponed to November 18 because a grid fin actuator must be replaced.]

SpaceX has been responding to a long list of corrective actions set by the FAA after the failure of its first test flight on April 20. The Starship rocket exploded over the Gulf of Mexico about four minutes after launch. The FAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees compliance with environmental regulations, were involved in the mishap investigation and their approval was needed before SpaceX tries again.

SpaceX’s Starship-Super Heavy rocket lifts off from Starbase in Boca Chica, TX, April 20, 2023. Screengrab. The 33 engines on the first stage (Super Heavy) pulverized the concrete launch pad sending a cloud of dust and debris into the air, some of which fell on a nearby town. SpaceX has completely revamped the launch pad for the second test.

SpaceX has been itching to get back to flight. Starship is crucial not only to SpaceX’s efforts to launch thousands of Starlink communications satellites, but it is under contract to NASA to use Starship as the Human Landing System to return astronauts to the surface of the Moon as part of the Artemis program. At a Senate hearing last month, SpaceX’s Bill Gerstenmaier warned that regulatory requirements were slowing the rocket’s development and could allow China to get ahead of the United States.

The FAA leads the interagency regulatory approval process and today gave the OK for the second Orbital Flight Test, also called an Integrated Flight Test.

SpaceX’s founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk has been posting on X for several days that they could launch as early as Friday, November 17, pending regulatory approval.  Shortly after the FAA’s announcement, SpaceX confirmed that is the launch date.

In an emailed media advisory, the company alerted residents near the Starbase launch site they may hear a loud noise when the 33 engines on the rocket’s first stage, Super Heavy, fire and the launch window is 7:00-9:00 am Central Time.

The Starship-Super Heavy combination is 120 meters (394 feet) tall and 9 meters (30 feet) in diameter. The first stage is called Super Heavy and the second stage is called Starship, but the combination is also called Starship.

Starship on the launch pad at Starbase in Boca Chica, TX, April 16, 2023, prior to the first test flight. The silver section is the first stage, Super Heavy. The second stage, Starship, is black because it is covered in thermal protection tiles. The combination is also referred to as Starship. Photo credit: SpaceX

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