HARLINGEN, Texas (Border Report) — SpaceX can’t launch its Starship spacecraft until it corrects dozens of issues that led to an April explosion at its South Texas launch facility, the Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday.
The FAA said it has closed its mishap investigation into the failed April 20 test launch, and noted 63 corrective actions that SpaceX must take before it can try to launch again.
“The closure of the mishap investigation does not signal an immediate resumption of Starship launches at Boca Chica,” the agency said.
Since Tuesday, SpaceX’s South Texas facility has been readied for another test launch of the massive Starship spacecraft.
In a tweet Tuedsay, SpaceX said the “Fully stacked Starship (was) on the launch pad at Starbase.”
Starbase is the name the company has given its South Texas launch operations where thousands of employees work testing rocket engines and spacecraft from a launch facility located just blocks from Boca Chica Beach, on the Texas-Mexico border on the Gulf of Mexico.
On Friday after the FAA’s announcement, SpaceX tweeted the importance of resuming testing operations for future space missions.
“Testing development flight hardware in a flight environment is what enables our teams to quickly learn and execute design changes and hardware upgrades to improve the probability of success in the future. We learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems during Starship’s first flight test,” SpaceX wrote on the platform X, formerly Twitter, which is now owned by SpaceX CEO and Founder Elon Musk.
SpaceX has said the April 20 explosion of the spacecraft was done purposely by the company after the test launch misfired.
But the explosion sparked wildfires that burned acres of tidal wetlands on the coast and sent huge chunks of concrete debris flying throughout the area, as well as a fine mist of particles floating through the skies over the Rio Grande Valley.
The FAA’s decision not to allow a launch comes after several environmental groups and the Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation of Texas sued the agency over the failed launch and explosion that sent debris throughout South Texas threatening sensitive wildlife areas.
“SpaceX must implement all corrective actions that impact public safety and apply for and receive a license modification from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental and other applicable regulatory requirements prior to the next Starship launch,” the FAA said.
The FAA says SpaceX must:
- Redesign vehicle hardware to prevent leaks and fires.
- Redesign the launch pad to increase its strength.
- Redesign and test critical systems and components for safety, including the Autonomous Flight Safety System.
- Incorporate changes in future spacecraft practices.
The FAA said the mishap investigation contains privileged information and was not released. The agency conducts mishap investigations when there are any of the following during a launch: serious injuries or fatalities; malfunctions of a safety-critical system; failure of safety procedures; high risk of fatality to crew or public; substantial damage to property not associated with launch; unplanned damage to launch property; permanent loss of the space vehicle; hazardous debris outside the launch area and failure to complete a launch or reentry as planned.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.