FAA clears Musk's SpaceX for Starship rocket lift off

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been granted a license by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch the second test flight of its next-generation Starship and “Super Heavy” lift rocket which now is set for Saturday.

Musk hinted early this week that his space technology company was hopeful the license would come through in time to schedule the test launch for Friday, November 17th, at the Boca Chica launchpad in Texas.

“Targeting Friday, November 17th for Starship’s second flight test. A two-hour launch window opens at 7:00 a.m. CT,” the billionaire reposted on X after receiving the news Wednesday.

"The FAA determined SpaceX met all safety, environmental, policy and financial responsibility requirements," the agency said in a statement about the decision.

But Thursday, Musk announced the test launch would be delayed by one day due to a piece of flight control hardware that needed replacing.

"We need to replace a grid fin actuator, so launch is postponed to Saturday," Musk said on his X platform.

The permission follows a five month FAA investigation after SpaceX’s first test flight ended quickly in a fiery explosion minutes after take-off from the same Boca Chica launchpad.

On the morning of April 20th, the uncrewed Starship rocket blasted off from the SpaceX Starbase spaceport and test facility in what was supposed to be the rocketship’s 90-minute debut flight into space.

The event was being live streamed, while hundreds of spectators gathered near the location to watch the take-off in person.

But barely four minutes after takeoff, Musk’s pet starship rocket failed to separate from its lower half and exploded in the sky – legally triggering the FAA technical investigation.

“The final report cites multiple root causes… and 63 corrective actions SpaceX must take” to even consider allowing SpaceX to attempt launching the rocket a second time, the agency said at the time.

SpaceX’s fully-integrated rocketship was designed as a two stage system – the Starship cruise vessel was made to sit atop the company’s new “Super Heavy” powerful raptor engines.

SpaceX determined that an onboard fire prevented Starship from separating.

The explosion was triggered by the rocket’s Autonomous Flight Safety System’s (AFSS) destruct command, which was automatically initiated (although 40 seconds late) after the 394-foot-tall Starship deviated from its expected trajectory.

SpaceX Explosion 750
SpaceX's next-generation Starship spacecraft atop its powerful Super Heavy rocket lifts off from the company's Boca Chica launchpad on an uncrewed test flight before exploding, near Brownsville, Texas, U.S. April 20, 2023. Image by Joe Skipper/Reuters.

Even with the explosive ending, Musk and his SpaceX officials cheered the blast off for its clean launch, declaring the brief episode a successful test flight.

Since then, SpaceX has been busy making hundreds of fixes to the rocket's design based on the FAA investigation report.

Objectives for the second test flight are the same as the first – to reach space, complete nearly a full revolution around Earth, and reenter the atmosphere for a splashdown off the Hawaiian coast.

The California-based space technology company was founded by Musk in 2002 with the goal of lowering space transportation costs, and ultimately colonizing Mars.

The Starship is designed to be fully reusable, represents SpaceX's next-generation workhorse rocket system capable of ferrying some 150 tons of satellites into space.

NASA, who has $4 billion development contract with SpaceX, is expecting to use the Starship in 2026 to land the first crew of humans on the moon's surface since 1972.

Besides the FAA investigation, several environmentalist groups filed a lawsuit against the FAA for allowing the test launch to take place, citing the launch was too close to a protected wildlife refuge.

The suit claimed the agency failed to perform a proper impact assessmhttps://cybernews.com/news/musks-spacex-cleared-by-faa-for-take-off/ent in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.

SpaceX has warned that local residents they "may hear a loud noise" during Friday’s lift off.

This article was updated on Thursday, November 16th, 8:40 PM UTC to reflect new launch date.

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