The Federal Aviation Administration will oversee the investigation Tuesday’s crash-landing of the SpaceX prototype rocket ship – less than a week after company founder Elon Musk blasted the agency for temporarily grounding its experimental spacecraft due to safety concerns stemming from a previous crash.
SpaceX’s second full test flight of its futuristic, bullet-shaped Starship prototype Serial Number 9 (SN9) ended in another fiery explosion on Tuesday.
Elon Musk’s company launched its latest Starship prototype from the southeastern tip of Texas, two months after the previous test ended in an equally explosive belly flop.
The SpaceX Starship SN9 explodes into a fireball after its high altitude test flight from test facilities in Boca Chica, Texas on Tuesday
The full-scale stainless steel rocket reached its intended altitude of 6.2 miles. Everything seemed to be going well as the 160-foot Starship flipped on its side and began its descent
But it did not manage to straighten itself back up in time for a landing and slammed into the ground. The SN9 is seen above moments before it crash-landed
‘The FAA’s top priority in regulating commercial space transportation is ensuring that operations are safe, even if there is an anomaly,’ the federal agency told DailyMail.com in a statement.
‘The FAA will oversee the investigation of the landing mishap involving the SpaceX Starship SN9 prototype in Boca Chica, Texas.
‘Although this was an uncrewed test flight, the investigation will identify the root cause of today’s mishap and possible opportunities to further enhance safety as the program develops.’
The agency declined to specify exactly how it would handle the probe.
SpaceX launched its latest Starship prototype Serial Number 9 (SN9) for its first high-altitude test that followed the same six mile path as the SN8 and ended with the same outcome – the massive craft exploded on the launch pad
Just days earlier, Musk blasted the FAA on Twitter after the agency’s space division delayed the launch of the SN9 due to ‘outstanding safety issues.’
The initial test flight was scheduled to take place on Thursday, but a tweet by Musk suggested that the FAA didn’t give the green light.
‘Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure,’ Musk wrote on Thursday.
‘Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.’
The FAA stayed quiet while Musk aired his frustrations online, but the division told DailyMail.com: ‘We will continue working with SpaceX to resolve outstanding safety issues before we approve the next test flight.’
SN9 took off around 3:24pm from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas testing facility. It let out a load roar from the base and fired up its massive Raptor engines before taking off to the sky
The world watched as SpaceX attempted a high-altitude test with a second prototype. SN9 took off from the launch pad and darted up with the hopes of reaching six miles
It is not yet clear whether SN9’s demise will be celebrated a success like its predecessor that CEO Elon Musk called a ‘triumph mission,’ but the billionaire vowed to take a break from Twitter so the world may never know
Although not stated by the FAA, the delay may have been due to SpaceX’s previous test flight of its Starship SN8 that traveled about seven miles into the air and then exploded on the launch pad in what Musk called ‘an awesome test.’
Starship SN9 had been waiting on the launch pad all of last week for its first test flight in which it was slated to soar six miles into the air and perform an aerodynamic descent and flipping manuever – the same tricks conducted by its predecessor SN8 in December.
On Thursday, SpaceX fueled SN9 for the feat and moments later pulled the plug on the mission.
SpaceX did not comply with safety regulations for the December 9 flight, an FAA spokesperson said on Tuesday, and needed to take corrective action before proceeding with launch operations.
Musk on Thursday bashed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Twitter after the FAA temporarily grounded SN9 due to safety concerns
The FAA said SpaceX failed to assess and document the risks to ‘public health and safety’ associated with a crash or explosion, violating a federal regulation.
‘The FAA required SpaceX to conduct an investigation of the SN8 incident, including a comprehensive review of the company’s safety culture, operational decision-making and process discipline,’ an FAA spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday.
‘All testing that could affect public safety at the Boca Chica launch site was suspended until the investigation was completed and the FAA approved the company’s corrective actions.’
The FAA did not specify what the corrective actions were.
A spokesperson for the agency told CNN that the FAA plans to take ‘no further enforcement action on SN8 matter.’
‘The FAA-approved corrective actions implemented by SpaceX enhanced public safety,’ according to an agency statement.
‘Those actions were incorporated into today’s SN9 launch.’
On Tuesday, the full-scale stainless steel rocket reached its intended altitude of 6.2 miles, slightly lower than the last one.
Everything seemed to be going well as the 160-foot Starship flipped on its side and began its descent.
But it did not manage to straighten itself back up in time for a landing and slammed into the ground.
‘We’ve just got to work on that landing a little bit,’ said SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker.
SN9 is the second Starship prototype to include the nose cone and fairings. The massive rocket is constructed of stainless steel and is poised to one day take humans to Mars
As Starship SN9 gain altitude it began to turn off its three Raptor engines one-by-one. The lasted prototype followed the same path as its predecessor, SN8, that launched in December
Tt seems the prototype was unable to maneuver into the vertical position before landing on the launch pad, hindering its ability to stick the landing and exploded upon impact. Pictured is SN9 right before crashing down into the pad
The entire rocket ignited into a ball of flame that could be seen miles away
SN9 (right) was seen waiting patiently on the launch pad Tuesday, with the latest prototype, SN10 (left), standing at nearby pad that could also take its first flight later this month
‘Reminder – this is a test flight.’
The next Starship, SN10, stood nearby at the launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, during Tuesday’s test, which lasted 6 1/2 minutes.
Musk is developing Starship to carry people to Mars, perhaps in as little as several years.
It’s the upper stage of his intended moon and Mars ships, meant to launch atop a mega rocket called Super Heavy that is still being developed.
It is unclear when SpaceX plans to launch the test flight for SN10.
SN9 took off around 3:24pm Eastern Time from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas, testing facility and appeared to have met all the marks for a successful flight as it climbed through the sky – from venting to turning off its Raptor engines one-by-one and performing a ‘belly flop.’
The vehicle hit the six-mile goal about four minutes into flight and then successfully performed an aerodynamic descent on its side while falling to the earth.
However, the prototype was unable to maneuver into the vertical position before landing on the launch pad, hindering its ability to stick the landing.
It landed with a deafening crash, and exploded into bright orange flames and a dust cloud, but the fire did not spread.
It is not yet clear whether SN9’s demise will be celebrated a success like its predecessor that Musk called a ‘triumph mission,’ but the billionaire vowed to take a break from Twitter so the world may never know.
The development of Starship has been rapid, with new prototypes and next generation models developed concurrently to allow for quick changes.
In the past year alone SpaceX has completed two low-altitude flight tests with SN5 and SN6 and over 16,000 seconds of run time during ground engine starts.
Musk recently an ambitious plan to get humans on Mars by 2026 – seven years before NASA aims to land astronauts on the Red Planet.
And Starship rockets are key players in turning that dream into a reality.
The test flight went up 7.8 miles, attempted a ‘belly flop’ in the air, turned back upright then aimed to land safely back at the testing facility in Texas but failed due to coming in too fast and crash landing
It soared out over the Gulf of Mexico and after about five minutes, it flipped sideways as planned and descended in a free-fall back to the southeastern tip of Texas near the Mexican border
SN8 attempted a ‘belly flop’ manoeuvre where it tilted 90 degrees to mimic the way it would return through Earth’s atmosphere after a space flight
The SpaceX Starship rocket exploded the moment it hit the ground following its first high-altitude flight on December 9, 2020
The SN8 craft became engulfed in flames and ruptured when it landed, leaving nothing behind but debris and cloud of smoke