Elon Musk vs. FAA: Starship accident investigation is officially over

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the completion of an investigation into the causes of the accident that occurred during the first orbital test of the Starship spacecraft. The organization has prepared a list of measures that SpaceX needs to perform to get permission for the next flight.

Starship accident

The first orbital test of Starship took place on April 20. During the ascent, a number of Raptor engines turned off at the Super Heavy booster. This was due to a fire in the engine compartment. As a result, the giant rocket managed to reach the 39 km mark, after which it finally lost control and began to rotate uncontrollably.

The first test flight of Starship. Source: SpaceX

After that, the automatic flight termination system was activated. However, it failed to undermine Starship. Over the next forty seconds, the rocket performed several turns before collapsing at an altitude of 29 km. 

Another unforeseen consequence of the test was the significant damage to the launch pad. In its concrete base, literally, a huge crater was formed

Consequences of the launch of Starship. Source: AFP

In the following months, SpaceX engineers actively worked to eliminate the consequences of the launch and improve Starship. The launch pad was restored and received a water cooling system. And a lot of changes have been made to the design of Starship. In addition, it received a new stage separation system.

In August, SpaceX specialists began firing tests of the next instance of Super Heavy, which would be involved in the new Starship test. But for such a flight, the company needed to fulfill one more condition: to get permission from the FAA. And it was impossible until the state controllers completed their own investigation of the causes of the accident.

Completion of the FAA investigation

On September 8, the FAA officially announced the completion of the investigation. The organization has prepared a list of 63 measures that SpaceX needs to perform to get permission for the next flight. 

The news of the completion of the investigation led to a small squabble involving Elon Musk. At first, he demanded from the FAA to publicly announce a list of measures, then he published them himself and then congratulated SpaceX employees that they had already fulfilled 57 of the 63 recommendations.

In any case, the FAA recommendations do not contain any “impossible” points. In particular, they stipulate the installation of additional sensors for registering fuel leaks and cameras for visual monitoring, improving the fire extinguishing system, changing the engine shutdown procedure, etc. All this means that, with a fairly high probability, SpaceX will be able to fulfill the FAA requirements quite quickly and get permission for a new Starship launch, which may take place sometime in the autumn.

According to https://spacenews.com

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