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Technology FAA to oversee investigation of SpaceX Mars rocket prototype's explosive landing

04:30  03 february  2021
04:30  03 february  2021 Source:   cnn.com

Starship: The largest spaceship of all time is set to fly 15 kilometers this week - Elon Musk reckons the flight could fail

 Starship: The largest spaceship of all time is set to fly 15 kilometers this week - Elon Musk reckons the flight could fail SpaceX's SpaceX could take a big step forward this week in its quest to create the space flight to further revolutionize. company founder Elon Musk tweeted to on Monday evening that a prototype of SpaceX's giant Starship spacecraft - a fully reusable vehicle that the company plans to use in the future to send people to the Moon and Mars - a first on Tuesday Test could go through.

Starship SN9, SpaceX ' s early prototype for a rocket the company hopes will carry the first humans to Mars , launched a high-altitude test flight Tuesday that saw the vehicle travel a few miles up in the air, hover for a moment, and then conduct a belly flop-like maneuver on descent before making an explosive landing back on the launch pad.

The prototype , called SN9, was supposed to attempt a soft landing , but the spaceship slammed into the ground sideways and exploded . This is the second time the aerospace company, founded by Elon Musk, has launched such an ambitious Starship flight and seen the vehicle destroyed upon landing . Sticking the landing is a key part of SpaceX founder Elon Musk' s quest to realize Earth' s first fully and rapidly reusable rocket system. (You can't reuse a rocket that gets severely damaged every time it launches and lands .) SN9 represents only the upper stage of a two-part system: A roughly 23-story

The Federal Aviation Administration said it will oversee an investigation into a crash landing of a SpaceX prototype rocket on Tuesday. The announcement comes after the FAA forced SpaceX to delay the launch as it investigated a previous explosion of a similar rocket prototype.

smoke coming out of the water © from SpaceX

The destroyed vehicle, SpaceX's Starship SN9, was an early prototype for a rocket the company hopes will carry the first humans to Mars. Launched in a high-altitude test flight Tuesday, the vehicle traveled a few miles up in the air, hovered for a moment, and then conducted a belly flop-like maneuver on descent before making an explosive landing back on the launch pad.

SpaceX closes out record year with 26th launch

  SpaceX closes out record year with 26th launch The launch came two days later than planned because of higher-than-normal pressure in the rocket's second stage liquid oxygen tank that triggered a last-minute "auto abort" Thursday.The NROL-108 payload was a surprise late addition to SpaceX's launch manifest. The satellite's builder and purpose are mysteries, reminiscent of the equally mysterious "Zuma" payload launched by SpaceX in January 2018. Zuma was lost in a mishap of some sort shortly after reaching space and no details about its mission, or even what agency owned it, have ever surfaced.

A giant experimental rocket built by Elon Musk' s SpaceX successfully soared eight miles above the company' s testing facilities in South Texas on Wednesday and came back down as planned, before crashing into the ground in an enormous plume of flames and smoke.

The Starship prototype stands at about 150 feet tall, or about the size of a 15 story building, and is powered by three Raptor rocket engines. SpaceX will fire all three engines for liftoff and then shut them down one at a time in sequence as it nears the top of the flight' s intended altitude. "The FAA determined late Monday (Feb.1 ) that SpaceX complies with all safety and related federal regulations and is authorized to conduct Starship SN9 flight operations in accordance with its launch license," the FAA said. Key tests for the SN9 flight include shutting down the engines in succession, transferring

"The FAA's top priority in regulating commercial space transportation is ensuring that operations are safe, even if there is an anomaly," an agency spokesperson said in a statement, using the industry term for a launch failure. "The FAA will oversee the investigation of today's 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."

When asked how the investigation would be carried out, the spokesperson said "we have nothing further to add tonight."

But public FAA documents say that when a rocket "mishap" occurs, the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation "may elect to conduct the investigation or authorize the launch operator to conduct the investigation" under FAA supervision.

FAA issues safety rules that could smooth the way for Amazon drone deliveries

  FAA issues safety rules that could smooth the way for Amazon drone deliveries The Federal Aviation Administration issues final versions of rules for drones that fly over people and at night — including Amazon's future delivery drones.“The new rules make way for the further integration of drones into our airspace by addressing safety and security concerns,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a news release. “They get us closer to the day when we will more routinely see drone operations such as the delivery of packages.

SpaceX ’ s Starship rocket prototype exploded in flames as it made a vertical landing on Wednesday, minutes after what seemed to be an uneventful test launch from the company’ s testing site on the coast of Texas. The Starship rocket destroyed was the prototype for a heavy-lift launch vehicle that Elon Musk’ s private space company hopes will carry people – and cargo – on future missions to the Moon and Mars . The self-guided rocket blew up as it touched down on a landing pad following a controlled descent.

A prototype of SpaceX ’ s upcoming heavy-lift rocket , Starship, exploded on Friday during ground tests in south Texas as Elon Musk’ s space company pursued an aggressive development schedule to fly the launch vehicle for the first time. A prototype vanished in an explosive fireball at SpaceX ’ s Boca Chica test site on Friday, as seen in a livestream recorded by the website Nasa Spaceflight. There was no immediate indication of injuries. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FAA defines a mishap as a "launch or reentry accident, launch or reentry incident, launch site accident, failure to complete a launch or reentry as planned, or an unplanned event or series of events resulting in up to $25,000 worth of damage, a fatality or serious injury.

During the launch the rocket's three engines ignited, turned off, and then re-ignited for the landing as planned, however the rocket burst into a fireball when it returned to the launch pad. It was not immediately clear what went wrong.

SpaceX engineer John Insprucker said on the company's livestream of the event that much of the test flight "looked to be very good," and engineers were able to gather data to help improve the Starship design throughout the flight, which reached about 10 km, or six miles, high.

"We demonstrated the ability to transition the engines to the landing propellant tanks, the subsonic reentry looked very good and stable," Insprucker said. "We've just got to work on that landing a little bit."

SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Project Kuiper stir up a war of words over satellites

  SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Amazon’s Project Kuiper stir up a war of words over satellites SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Amazon's Project Kuiper escalated a different kind of Star Wars today, over the orbital parameters for their satellite constellations.Musk complained that Amazon’s protest would “hamstring” SpaceX’s Starlink broadband satellites, while Amazon replied that SpaceX was seeking to “smother competition in the cradle if it can.

A prototype of SpaceX ' s next-generation Starship rocket exploded on Friday after a test at the company' s development facility in Texas. The company was conducting a test of Starship on the ground known as a static fire. This prototype is distinct from the company' s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew The rocket is called Starship, which the company is developing with the goal of launching people and cargo to the moon and Mars . The rocket is designed to be reusable so SpaceX can launch and land it multiple times, like a commercial airplane. Starship' s shiny external appearance is because of the type

SpaceX ' s previous Starship prototypes burst during fuel-tank testing, but the fourth prototype exploded during an operation to test-fire its engine. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX , has said he expects to build about 20 different prototypes of the stainless-steel vehicle before one launches to orbit. He hopes fleets of Starships will one day help humanity explore the moon and settle Mars . SpaceX , using an unrelated rocket system, is slated to perform a historic mission by launching two astronauts to the International Space Station on Saturday.

The test launch comes after the 160-foot tall rocket prototype had been stranded on its launchpad in the Texas over the weekend. It was poised to take off for the test launch last week, but it stayed grounded because SpaceX violated a public safety agreement it had with federal regulators during a previous test launch, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Last Thursday, with Starship SN9 fueled and able to launch at any moment, the FAA sent out a surprising advisory that said the launch had been scrubbed.

The FAA, which oversees US airspace as well as licenses rocket launches, ordered SpaceX to halt operations at its testing facilities in South Texas "that could affect public safety," the agency said. After previously declining to comment on its investigation, which was first reported by The Verge, the FAA said Tuesday that it concluded this week that SpaceX took "corrective action" and is now complying with public safety rules. The agency did not disclose the nature of the public safety issue or what corrective action was undertaken.

SpaceX's second high-altitude Starship test flight could happen today

  SpaceX's second high-altitude Starship test flight could happen today SpaceX considered its first high-altitude Starship launch test a success despite the explode-y landing, but the FAA was reportedly not amused. It said that SpaceX violated the terms of its launch license, triggering an investigation and delaying the next test originally scheduled for January 28th. However, it looks like the two parties have patched things up, as SpaceX has announced that it will attempt its second high-altitude Starship test as early as today, February 2nd. Starship serial number 9 (SN9) will attempt an ascent to 10 km in height (32,000 feet) before switching to its header landing propellant tanks.

The FAA reinstated SpaceX's authorization to launch its rocket prototypes late Monday, according to a statement from the agency.

The company did not respond to requests for comment for this story, nor has it responded to requests for comment in more than eight months.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who used Twitter to publicly bash the FAA last week, wrote Tuesday morning that he would be "Off Twitter for a while."

At the root of the rift between SpaceX and the FAA was a test launch SpaceX carried out in December of SN9's predecessor, known as Starship SN8, which also exploded on the launch pad. Prior to that launch, SpaceX had "sought a waiver to exceed the maximum public risk allowed by federal safety regulations," according to the FAA. The agency denied that waiver request.

But SpaceX proceeded with the test launch anyway, conducting a high-altitude "hop test" that saw it successfully reach its desired altitude and maneuver through a series of in-air acrobatics before it explosively crash landed back at its launch site. Before the launch, Musk predicted that SN8 would have a one-in-three chance of surviving the test flight.

Despite the tweet, the FAA said in a statement Tuesday that SpaceX failed to assess and document the risks to "public health and safety" associated with a crash or explosion, violating a federal regulation.

SpaceX’s Starship prototype just crashed, watch the explosion right here

  SpaceX’s Starship prototype just crashed, watch the explosion right here SpaceX launched another test flight of a Starship prototype today. The high-altitude launch lasted roughly six minutes, but it didn't end how SpaceX would have liked. Rather than landing, the spacecraft slammed into the landing area, creating a massive explosion. SpaceX's latest Starship prototype launched on a test flight today, and it definitely ended with a bang. The launch went as planned, for the most part, with the Starship prototype traveling skyward for several minutes before killing its engines and then drifting back toward Earth. Everything looked great… until it didn’t.

"The FAA required SpaceX to conduct an investigation of the incident, including a comprehensive review of the company's safety culture, operational decision-making and process discipline," an FAA spokesperson said in a statement 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 say what the corrective actions were. The spokesperson added that the FAA plans to take "no further enforcement action on SN8 matter."

"The FAA-approved corrective actions implemented by SpaceX enhanced public safety. Those actions were incorporated into today's SN9 launch," the statement reads.

The FAA was already focused on reconfiguring its launch licensing process to make it more "streamlined." But it's not clear if the updated procedures, which are expected to go into effect in the near future, would have helped SpaceX quickly obtain authorization to loosen the public safety restrictions on its launch license that it requested prior to the SN8 launch.

SpaceX already has yet another Starship prototype, SN10, assembled. It's not clear when the company will attempt to launch it, but over the weekend, the company rolled the vehicle out a launch pad adjacent to where the SN9 took off.

smoke coming out of the water: Starship | SN9 | High-Altitude Flight Test © from SpaceX Starship | SN9 | High-Altitude Flight Test

FAA ends investigations into SpaceX's recent Starship launches .
The regulatory drama around SpaceX's recent Starship launches has simmered down. CNN's Jackie Wattles and The Verge have learned that the FAA ended its investigations into the SN8 and SN9 launches. SpaceX and the FAA "settled" concerns over the license for SN8, Wattles said. Officials ended the SN9 investigation after determining that the rocket's fiery death occurred "within the bounds" of the FAA's safety criteria and didn't threaten theThe FAA's SN9 investigation was a routine response to a failure, Wattles added. Officials are also looking into the botched Falcon 9 landing from the latest Starlink mission, but that won't necessarily lead to trouble for SpaceX.

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