(p. B5) Last week, SpaceX and government regulators seemed to be in a strange standoff. SpaceX had filled the propellant tanks of this prototype of Starship — its ninth one — and looked ready to launch. But then the rocket stayed on the ground when no approval from the F.A.A. arrived.
Mr. Musk expressed frustration on Twitter, describing the part of the F.A.A. that oversees SpaceX as “fundamentally broken.”
Mr. Musk wrote, “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.”
Late on Monday [Feb. 1, 2021], the F.A.A. gave permission for Tuesday’s launch, but then revealed that the December launch had occurred without the agency’s approval. SpaceX had requested a waiver to conduct that flight even though it had not shown that a pressure wave that could be generated by an explosion during the test would not pose a danger to the public. The F.A.A. denied the request. SpaceX defied the ruling and launched anyway.
Even if Starship had landed perfectly, launching it without approval was a violation of the company’s license.
For the full story, see:
(Note: bracketed date added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 2, 2021, and has the title “SpaceX’s Prototype Mars Rocket Crashes in Test Flight.”)