The FAA outlines 63 changes SpaceX must make to Starship

The second Starship flight test might happen surprisingly soon after the FAA closed its "mishap investigation".
Chris Young
Starship at Starbase.
Starship at Starbase.

SpaceX / X 

The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has closed its "mishap investigation" into the first flight of SpaceX's massive Starship rocket, which ended with a manually triggered explosion on April 20.

The investigation identifies "multiple root causes" of the first launch failure and highlights 63 corrective actions SpaceX "must take to prevent mishap reoccurrence", FAA officials explained in a statement on September 8.

The report means we may be surprisingly close to seeing Starship fly again, as SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently stated on X (formerly Twitter) that the massive rocket is "ready to fly".

Elon Musk: "Starship is ready to launch"

The FAA did note in its statement that SpaceX cannot launch Starship again unless they have addressed all of the corrective actions outlined by the report.

"The closure of the mishap investigation does not signal an immediate resumption of Starship launches at Boca Chica," they said in today's statement. "SpaceX must implement all corrective actions that impact public safety and apply for and receive a license modification from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental, and other applicable regulatory requirements prior to the next Starship launch."

In a post on X last week, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote, "Starship is ready to launch, awaiting FAA license approval." SpaceX also shared footage and images of a fully-stacked Starship on the launch pad at the company's Starbase facility in south Texas.

Essentially, SpaceX has confirmed its major pre-flight preparations are complete, having conducted a series of static fire engine tests on both Ship 25 and Booster 9 in recent months. Now, it must complete the changes outlined by the FAA.

The company has also made "well over a thousand changes" to Starship based on its own internal investigation into the first flight. It has, for example, added a "vented interstage" and a heat shield on the top of its Super Heavy prototype to allow for a hot-staging separation after launch.

The road to Starship's second test flight

After the first flight test of Starship in April, the FAA sanctioned a "mishap investigation" into the mission partly due to extensive damage to the launch pad and a large debris field surrounding Starbase.

The first launch of Starship blew a crater into the launch pad at Starbase, sending debris far and wide. The extensive damage is believed to have damaged nearby wildlife habitats, reportedly leaving wildlife officials stunned. Starship's manual termination of Starship is also thought to have taken longer than it should have.

"Corrective actions include redesigns of vehicle hardware to prevent leaks and fires, redesign of the launch pad to increase its robustness, incorporation of additional reviews in the design process, additional analysis and testing of safety critical systems and components including the Autonomous Flight Safety System, and the application of additional change control practices," FAA officials wrote in last week's statement.

After the FAA released its statement, Musk once again highlighted on X that SpaceX has made "thousands of upgrades to Starship and the surrounding infrastructure. This suggests that SpaceX may have already completed some of the corrective actions outlined by the FAA. We may be surprisingly close to seeing Starship fly once again.

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