Environmental Scrutiny May Push SpaceX’s Second Starship Launch to Next Year

A static fire test of SpaceX’s Starship Booster 9, August 25, 2023.

A static fire test of SpaceX’s Starship Booster 9, August 25, 2023.

SpaceX’s plans for a second launch of its Starship megarocket could face new delays, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) launches a review of environmental impacts and potential threats to endangered species in the Boca Chica region.

Starship’s launch on April 20 from Boca Chica, Texas, while achieving basic milestones for an inaugural flight, encountered several problems, including major damage at the launch mount and the scattering of debris across a wide area. After the launch, SpaceX and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) jointly participated in an investigation, resulting in 63 corrective actions proposed for Elon Musk’s private space company. Among the upgrades is a new water deluge system designed to quell the immense power of Starship’s 33 Raptor engines.

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As the FWS assessment looms, the FAA has yet to grant SpaceX the necessary approvals for its proposed second flight. If the FAA determines that its prior environmental assessment from 2022 is no longer valid due to modifications made for the upcoming flight, a more comprehensive review may be warranted, as the regulator explained in an emailed statement. And of course, the FAA needs to be happy with the recently executed corrective actions.

Needless to say, this could serve to delay the launch even further. In its statement, the FAA emphasized its commitment to ensuring all safety, environmental, and regulatory concerns are addressed before SpaceX is given clearance for another flight.

Want to know more about Elon Musk’s space venture? Check out our full coverage of SpaceX’s Starship megarocket and the SpaceX Starlink internet satellite megaconstellation. And for more spaceflight in your life, follow us on X (formerly Twitter) and bookmark Gizmodo’s dedicated Spaceflight page.

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