SpaceX said it may be in a position to conduct a second launch of its next-generation Starship rocket on Friday, though it added that could only happen after it receives approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“The spacecraft is preparing for launch as early as November 17, pending final regulatory approval,” SpaceX said in a recent post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
SpaceX launched its Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft (known collectively as Starship) for the first time in April, but an error caused the vehicle to fail just minutes after liftoff, forcing the mission team to blow it up in midair.
There was no one on board the missile, and there were no reports of casualties on the ground. However, SpaceX faced heavy criticism after the sheer force of its Raptor rocket’s 33 engines caused the launch pad at its Boca Chica, Texas, facility to disintegrate, spreading debris over a wide area.
Since then, the company has designed a more powerful launch pad, and after a series of recent engine tests, it says it is ready for launch as early as this week.
But the FAA still must complete an environmental review to evaluate the launch’s impact on things like wildlife in the surrounding area. It’s not clear if there’s any possibility that the FAA will give SpaceX the green light to move forward in the next few days.
Last month, the FAA said that, as part of its environmental review, it was consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on an updated biological assessment under the Endangered Species Act. “The FAA and USFWS must complete this consultation before the environmental review portion of the license evaluation is complete,” the agency said.
With 17 million pounds of thrust at launch, the Super Heavy is the most powerful rocket ever launched. SpaceX wants to use it on crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and perhaps beyond. NASA has contracted with SpaceX to use a modified version of its Starship spacecraft to put two astronauts on the lunar surface in 2025 as part of the Artemis III mission in what would be the first manned lunar landing in five decades.
SpaceX’s social media post came at the same time that Reuters claimed to have uncovered more than 600 previously unreported workplace infections at SpaceX since 2014. Reuters attributed this at least in part to the rapid pace of work demanded by SpaceX’s president Elon Musk in pursuit of his goal. A great ambition to colonize Mars. SpaceX has not yet commented publicly on the investigation.
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