SpaceX is continuing its Starship spacecraft test and development program at a steady pace and, as of this afternoon, it has clearance from the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct its next three test flights from its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. Approvals for previous launch tests have been ad hoc, but the FAA said in a statement it was approving them in a batch because “SpaceX makes few changes to the launcher and relied on the FAA approved methodology. to calculate the risk to the public. . “
SpaceX is expected to launch its SN15 test vessel as early as this week, provided an FAA inspector is present at the time of launch at the Boca Chica facility. The regulator says it has sent an inspector, expected to arrive today, which could pave the way for a potential launch attempt in the coming days.
The last test flight SpaceX attempted from Boca Chica was the launch of SN11, which took place in late March. It ended badly, after a generally successful initial climb to an altitude of around 30,000 feet and a rollover maneuver, with an explosion triggered by an error in one of the Raptor engines used to control the powered landing of the vehicle. .
In its statement regarding the authorization of the next three attempts, the FAA noted that the investigation into what happened with SN11 and its unfortunate end was still ongoing, but added that even so, the agency determined any public safety concerns related to what happened. the wrongs have been mitigated.
The three-launch approval license includes flights SN16 and SN17 as well as SN15, but the FAA noted that after the first flight, the following two may require additional “corrective action” before take-off, pending any further ” incident”. with the launch of SN15.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has at times criticized the FAA for not being flexible or responsive enough to the rapid pace of iterations and testing SpaceX is pursuing in the development of Starship. On the other hand, members of Congress have suggested that the FAA may not have gone as deep as needed in an independent investigation into Starship’s previous testing incidents. The administration maintains that the lack of final impact on public safety, however, is indicative of the success of its program so far.