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SpaceX has requested FAA authorization for at least 9 Starship test launches this year

SpaceX has requested FAA authorization for at least 9 Starship test launches this year
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SpaceX is approaching the first Starship launch in 2024 from its Starbase in Texas, probably in as little as three weeks. But the company is already pushing regulators to increase the number of test flights.

During a press conference, Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Kelvin Coleman stated that the agency is working with the company to try to ease the licensing process for the Starship launch, as reported by ArsTechnica.

They are looking at a pretty aggressive launch schedule this year. I think they plan at least nine launches this year. This is a lot of launches. If you are creating new modifications and doing them one after another, it is a lot of work. We are constantly in touch with SpaceX, getting together and trying to figure out how to do this.

About five years ago, after SpaceX decided to launch and attempt to land its Starship spacecraft in Texas, the company had to undergo an extensive environmental review of the site. As part of this process, the FAA completed its final programmatic environmental assessment in June 2022. Following this, SpaceX was granted permission to conduct up to five Starship launches from South Texas annually. An FAA representative confirmed that the company is seeking to change this limit to five launches to achieve a higher flight frequency.

In April 2023, SpaceX launched its first Starship rocket, which is the largest rocket ever built and is designed for full reuse. This flight caused serious damage to the launch site in Boca Chica and raised concerns among ecologists after large chunks of concrete and dust were thrown onto the surrounding marshy lands. Coleman said that the investigation into the anomaly and the regulatory review process after this flight took about six months, which he believed was proportionate to the amount of work that had been done.

The second launch attempt in November was more successful, as the first stage of the Super Heavy carrier rocket made an almost nominal flight, and the Starship booster managed to separate from the carrier rocket before encountering an anomaly and being lost. This time there was no damage on the ground. According to Coleman, the work done by the FAA to analyze this anomaly was about a third less.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk stated that his company plans to make a third Starship launch attempt in early to mid-March. According to Musk, this highly experimental spacecraft flight has a high chance of successfully reaching orbit.

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