In a significant milestone towards its second-ever Starship test flight, SpaceX has officially completed the corrective actions identified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) following an investigation into the April 20 launch mishap of the first fully-integrated SpaceX Starship.
The investigation, jointly led by SpaceX with oversight from the FAA, identified multiple root causes of the mishap and outlined a comprehensive set of 63 corrective actions to prevent a recurrence. Today, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared the list of these 63 corrective actions that the company must undertake before applying for a Starship launch license from its Starbase facility in Boca Chica Beach, Texas.
Musk praised SpaceX for successfully addressing the 57 items required by the FAA for the upcoming Starship flight –"Congrats to SpaceX for completing & documented the 57 items required by the FAA for Flight 2 of Starship! Worth noting that 6 of the 63 items refer to later flights," shared Musk.
The corrective actions include improvements in various aspects of the launch system, from structural enhancements to safety measures. Read more in the X post linked below. Among the key corrective actions are:
- Tank Sensing: Enhanced tank monitoring systems.
- Fire Suppression: A 15x increase in fire suppression capacity.
- Improved Design: Replacing certain fittings, manifolds, and flanges with better seals and designs.
- Leak Detection: Extensive leak checks and monitoring through cameras.
- Igniter Improvements: Design enhancements for igniter units.
- Structural Analysis: Improved structural analysis for critical components.
- Thermal Protection: Adding insulation to sensitive areas.
- Electrical Systems: Implementing an electric actuation system.
- Safety Enhancements: Enhancements to safety systems and controls.
- Pad Design: Redesigning the launch pad deck and improving its documentation.
Congrats to SpaceX for completing & documented the 57 items required by the FAA for Flight 2 of Starship!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 10, 2023
Worth noting that 6 of the 63 items refer to later flights. pic.twitter.com/YlPg3ywCZE
SpaceX's relentless commitment to iterative development and a rigorous focus on safety led to "over a thousand design overhauls" in preparation for the upcoming flight attempt. Musk expressed a 50% confidence level in achieving orbital velocity during this mission, citing the extensive improvements made to the rocket.
The April 20 launch incident, which saw the Starship climb to a maximum altitude of approximately 39 kilometers before encountering issues, prompted a series of actions. These included leak mitigations, improved testing procedures, and the construction of the steel water deluge system for fire suppression for the Super Heavy booster at the Starbase launch pad.
The Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) was also requalified and enhanced following the incident to improve system reliability. This system played a critical role in the controlled destruction of the vehicle after it deviated from its expected trajectory. Perhaps, one of the most notable design changes is the new vented interstage between the Super Heavy booster and Starship. It is designed to enable "hot staging," where the Starship upper-stage ignites its engines before fully separating from the first-stage booster.
With these corrective actions completed and a continued commitment to safety and innovation, SpaceX is poised to take its Starship program to new heights, inching closer to the dream of interplanetary travel and exploration. The company is now proceeding to apply for a spaceflight license with the FAA. SpaceX must apply for a new license for each particular launch so that the FAA can clear the airspace traffic for safe operations. SpaceX has not yet released information about when they will perform the second flight but it looks like it will happen this month!
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Featured Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.