Elon Musk: Starship could be ready to fly again in 'six to eight weeks'

The launch pad could be repaired within two months, Musk said, though the FAA countered that "safety will dictate the timeline."
Chris Young
Starship at launch.
Starship at launch.

SpaceX / Twitter 

The full Starship and Super Heavy launch system soared into the skies for the first time on April 20.

Since that time, SpaceX, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), and environmentalists have been hard at work trying to understand the aftermath of the first launch of the world's most powerful rocket.

They may have to be quick as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has recently provided an update, stating that Starship could be ready to fly again in "six to eight weeks".

The aftermath of Starship's first massive test flight

After Starship's first test flight, much was made of the damage caused to Starship's launch pad at SpaceX's Starbase launch facility in South Texas. According to Musk, the damage was not as bad as some have suggested.

"The outcome was roughly in (line) with what I expected and, maybe slightly exceeded my expectations," the SpaceX CEO said during a Twitter Spaces chat on Saturday evening, as reported by CNN. He also added that Starship's next-generation Raptor engines may have "shattered the concrete" at the launch pad when they reached full thrust.

"The vehicle structural margins appear to be better than we expected," Musk continued. "As we can tell the vehicle is actually doing somersaults towards the end and still staying intact."

Since the first launch of the Starship launch system, SpaceX has explained that the massive rocket "experienced multiple engines out during the flight test, lost altitude, and began to tumble. The flight termination system was commanded on both the booster and ship."

This resulted in a massive explosion, or a "rapid unscheduled disassembly," as SpaceX likes to call it. The FAA then grounded the Starship program as part of a standard procedure "mishap investigation."

When will Starship fly again?

Though Musk seems optimistic following the first launch of Starship, it seems fairly unlikely that Starship will actually launch again within two months.

In an interview with CNBC, Jared Margolis, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, stated that Starship's debris footprint exceeded the threshold set out by SpaceX for the FAA's environmental assessment for the launch. Concerns also remain over a massive cloud of particulate matter generated by Starship that reached the nearby town of Port Isabel.

The FAA, meanwhile, recently released a statement in which it wrote that it "will determine the root cause of the event and identify corrective actions the operator must implement to avoid a recurrence."

It took a long time for the FAA to grant SpaceX clearance for the first launch of Starship, and it likely won't be in a rush to greenlight the massive rocket's second flight.

"We aren’t going to speculate on timelines," the FAA added in its statement. "Safety will dictate the timeline."

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