SpaceX hit by FAA with list of 17 fixes it must make before it tries to launch Starship again after most recent explosion



US air safety regulators concluded a mishap investigation into SpaceX’s most recent Starship explosion in November, laying out the issues the Elon Musk-led company must address before it can attempt to launch the rocket for a third time.

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered 17 corrective actions, including hardware redesigns for its Super Heavy Booster and additional fire protection and upgrades for its Starship vehicle.  

The remediation steps, identified during a SpaceX-led mishap investigation that the FAA has now closed, are one of a series of actions SpaceX must take in order to attempt another launch from its base in south Texas. 

The closing of the mishap probe doesn’t signal an immediate authorization of the next Starship launch, the FAA added in its emailed statement. Before launching Starship again, SpaceX must implement all corrective actions and receive a launch license from the FAA.

The second flight test “achieved a number of important milestones, with lessons learned that informed vehicle upgrades debuting on Flight 3,” SpaceX said in an update on Monday.  

SpaceX launches new test rockets accepting they might explode or fail midflight, so engineers get flight experience quickly. It’s one reason why SpaceX can move through development more rapidly than NASA and other companies that are more reluctant to fail in public.

During the Nov. 18 flight, after the Super Heavy booster separated from the Starship spacecraft and began maneuvering toward its intended landing spot, SpaceX said several of its engines began shutting down before one engine “failed energetically,” cascading to an explosion.

The most likely cause in a chain reaction was a filter blockage where liquid oxygen is supplied to the engines. SpaceX has made hardware changes to improve propellant filtration, among other upgrades, it said. 

Starship flew for several minutes until fires severed communication between the spacecraft’s flight computers, SpaceX said. The problem caused the spacecraft to self-destruct in space. SpaceX said it made hardware changes to improve leak reduction and fire protection. 

Chief Executive Officer Musk said in a Feb. 12 post on X, his social media platform, that a third launch attempt could happen in about three weeks.

SpaceX made a number of upgrades after its first launch attempt in April 2023 wound up destroying the launch pad and setting fire to a nearby park. 

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