SpaceX nears third Starship launch clearance following FAA investigation closure


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.

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.

The FAA said (via

“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.”

Because the investigation is now closed, SpaceX only needs to modify its license and submit information required by the FAA to prove that it has made various corrective actions to the Super Heavy booster and Starlship’s upper stage.

Seven of the seventeen corrective actions had to do with the Super Heavy first-stage booster, including:

  • vehicle hardware redesigns
  • updated control system modeling
  • re-evaluation of engine analyses based on OTF-2 flight data
  • updated engine control algorithms

Meanwhile, the final ten corrective actions had to do with the upper stage, and included:

  • vehicle hardware redesigns
  • operational changes
  • flammability analysis updates
  • installation of additional fire protection
  • guidance and modeling updates

The good thing is that, despite the FAA’s request for corrective actions, it does not necessarily mean that Starship’s next test flight is all that far away.

Although it has not gained clearance from the FAA to launch, it does mean it is close.

The FAA required SpaceX to identify and fix 63 corrective actions after the first test flight in September 2023 and before the second flight just two months later in November. This is just 17 corrective actions to fix, and once they are solved, the FAA will grant SpaceX a flight license.

SpaceX has a busy schedule for the year and plans to launch Starship at least nine times in 2024, according to a revised license the company filed with the FAA earlier this year.

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SpaceX nears third Starship launch clearance following FAA investigation closure


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