FAA orders dozens of changes before next SpaceX Starship launch attempt

The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday ordered SpaceX to make numerous changes to its infrastructure and process before being allowed to launch another rocket after its last attempt destroyed its launch pad and caused widespread damage.

The agency provided 63 steps SpaceX must take before it allows the company to launch another rocket from its facility near Brownsville, Texas.

The attempted launch of a SpaceX Starship craft, a super-heavy launch vehicle that is the most powerful rocket ever, ended in disaster in April after the launch pad was destroyed by the rocket’s engines.

Chunks of the concrete launchpad and metal pieces were sent flying hundreds of feet, damaging the launch facility. The Starship craft got off the pad successfully but was detonated in flight when it started tumbling out of control.

The failure brought the company immense criticism and allegations that it cut corners because the launch pad design did not include flame diverters — cavities for the propulsion gasses to escape without damaging the pad itself.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk advocated against the use of flame diverters. The company’s intended alternative wasn’t ready in time for the Starship launch, he said, resulting in the concrete pad being destroyed.

The company said in a statement to The Associated Press that the earlier failed launch “provided numerous lessons learned.”

SpaceX intends to launch a second Starship craft when the pad site is approved by the FAA. 

The company hopes to use Starships to ferry people and cargo to and from the International Space Station, and Musk has mulled over ideas to use the crafts as sub-orbital space transportation.

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