Starship rocket launch window revealed by FAA

Regulators have revealed when they expect to approve a launch license to SpaceX for the next major flight test of its Starship rocket.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) commercial space division said a mishap investigation from the last test in April had been concluded and a license would likely be granted “somewhere in mid to late October”, assuming SpaceX make the necessary changes.

Starship is the biggest rocket ever built, measuring 394 feet (120 metres) and capable of producing 5,000 metric tons of thrust, however it is yet to make it to orbit.

An attempt on 20 April, 2023, saw it blow up just over three minutes into a 90 minute flight. The debris that came down in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as from the destroyed launchpad in Texas, became the subject of an FAA investigation.

The federal agency said SpaceX would need to take 63 corrective actions before another launch license is approved.

SpaceX’s next-generation Starship spacecraft explodes after its launch (Reuters)
SpaceX’s next-generation Starship spacecraft explodes after its launch (Reuters)

Kevin Coleman, the FAA’s associate administrator for commercial space transportation, told SpaceNews this week that 27 of the 63 corrective actions are related to public safety.

“So one thing that we’ll need to see before the next operation is evidence that shows that the company has closed out the corrective actions that are specifically tied to public safety,” he said.

“We’re on a pretty good schedule. It probably set us somewhere in mid to late October for conclusion of the safety review.”

A separate environmental review from the US Fish and Wildlife Service is also required in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act, though Mr Coleman said he hoped it would be wrapped up by the time the safety review is complete.

Earlier this month, SpaceX boss Elon Musk said Starship is “ready to launch” after it was pictured on the launchpad of the firm’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

The tech billionaire plans to build hundreds of the rockets in order to establish a permanent human colony on Mars before 2050.

SpaceX has already secured a multi-billion dollar contract with Nasa to develop the craft for use in the US space agency’s Artemis programme, which aims to return humans to the surface of the Moon this decade.