Elon Musk New Plan For SpaceX To Deal With FAA: The FAA has been delaying the launch dates of the new SpaceX starships, and the developments have been getting under the skin of SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk.
However, as usual, the tech billionaire has never been known to cower under pressure in any circumstances, and he doesn’t seem to be doing that in this frustrating situation as well as he’s come up with a genius solution to deal with the FAA and get them to speed things up.
The delays of the Federal Aviation Administration on the launch of SpaceX starships haven’t put Elon Musk in the best of moods. These delays, which have been more than once or twice, seem to be slowing down the whole process.
Back in September 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration opened public comment on a draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA)— that was required before choosing whether to issue a launch license or experimental permit to the company for its Starship or Super Heavy vehicle.
The agency has received more than 18,000 public comments on the draft report, and its original December 31st deadline was extended, citing discussions, a high volume of comments, and consultation efforts. The FAA then had plans to release the final PEA in late February.
A bunch of virtual public hearings back in October last year generated a mixed bag of feedback, according to the news.
Lots of people advocated for the proposed launch site, saying it was important to the country’s future in space, while other people pointed out the monetary benefits of calling the Texas ZIP code home.
However, it was argued that the draft PEA underlooks massive environmental impacts, including the already-dwindling amount of nearby nests that belonged to threatened piping plover birds.
Critics of the launchpad asked that the FAA bring on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before any SpaceX license, which could take months or years, stalling the tech giant’s plans. Starship and Super Heavy represent a fully reusable transportation system that has been perfectly designed to carry both crew and cargo to the Earth orbit: the Moon, planet Mars, and beyond.
The SpaceX Website also describes Starship as the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed. It might be a huge name to follow, but what else did we expect? In May, SpaceX completed its fifth high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype from the Starbase in Texas.
The founder of SpaceX said recently that he was “highly confident” his new SpaceX Starship, which was designed for trips to the moon and planet Mars will reach the orbit of the Earth for the first time this year.
When asked recently what he knew about the status of the review by the FAA, Elon Musk said, “We don’t have a ton of insight into where things stand with the FAA. We have gotten sort of a rough indication that there may be roval in March. But that’s all we know.”
Even in a worst-case scenario in which a full environmental impact statement was squired or legal wrangling over the issue that has threatened to drag on, Elon Musk said the company has a fall-back plan.
SpaceX would shift its entire Starship program to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral in Florida, where the company has already received the environmental approval it needs. Although a move like that would cause a setback of six to eight months, Musk explained.
Despite this minor bump along the way, SpaceX is still aiming for a launch in 2023 of what it calls the world’s first private lunar mission, flying aboard a starship to go around the moon and return to Earth, making history.
The company’s first high-altitude test flight of its Starship rocket, which successfully launched but exploded in a botched landing attempt back in December, violated the terms of its FAA test license, according to two persons who are familiar with the incident.
Both the license violation and the landing explosion prompted a formal investigation by the FAA, driving regulators to add extra scrutiny on Elon’s fast Mars rocket text campaign. Although the December test launch of the Serial Number 8 Starship Prototype at SpaceX facilities in Boca Chica in Texas was hailed by the CEO as a big success.
Musk tweeted, “Mars, here we come!!” moments after the rocket exploded on landing, thereby celebrating SN8’S successful 8-mile-high ascent with his fans and followers.
The FAA was not happy at all with it. The FAA immediately opened an investigation that week and was not only focusing on the explosive landing but on the company’s refusal to stick to the terms of what the FAA authorized.
It was quite unclear what part of the test flight went against the terms of the FAA, and an FAA spokesman didn’t specify in a report to The Verge. “The FAA will continue to work with SpaceX to evaluate additional information provided by the company as part of its application to modify its launch license,” Steve Kulm, the FAA spokesman, said.
“While we recognize the importance of moving quickly to foster growth and innovation in the commercial space, the FAA will not compromise its responsibility to protect public safety.
We will approve the modification only after we are satisfied that SpaceX has taken the necessary steps to comply with regulatory requirements.” The increased scrutiny from regulators following the launchpad incident had played a huge role in holding up the company’s latest “SN9” Starship test attempt, which the company said would happen very soon.
The shiny steel alloy, 16 stories long space rocket was fully loaded and ready to take the sky. Unfortunately, at the time, FAA officials were still going through their license review process for the test launch due to the lots of changes the company made in its license application, according to reports.
Elon Musk, who was frustrated by the process, did what he did best and went on Twitter to say a few words. “Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars. Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure,” the CEO recently tweeted.
“Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities”. Elon Musk’s tweet, calling out the FAA to his millions of fans and followers, was the latest expression of the CEO’s resentful attitude towards regulators that deal with his businesses’ rapid rate of development.
Some hours before the SN8 Starship test late last year, while Elon Musk was in Boca Chica securing approval for the FAA license that his company violated, he was asked in an interview with The Wall Street Journal what role the US government should play in regulating innovation.
In true Elon Musk fashion, he replied, “A lot of the time, the best thing the government can do is just get out of the way.” Moving on to NASA’s collaboration with SpaceX, as NASA plans to take humans back to the Moon under Artemis, the agency recently announced its plans to make more opportunities for commercial companies to create an astronaut Moon lander.
Using this new approach, the agency is asking American companies to compose lander concepts capable of ferrying astronauts between the lunar orbit and the lunar surface for missions beyond Artemis III, which will land the first astronauts on the Moon in over 50 years.
In April 2021, NASA chose SpaceX as its partner to land the next American astronauts on the moon. The demonstration mission is targeted to happen no earlier than April 2025.
NASA is now asking the aerospace company, SpaceX, to change the company’s proposed human lander into a spacecraft that meets NASA’s requirements for recurring services for the next demonstration mission.
Chasing more development work under the original contract increases the agency’s investment and its partnership with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. To bring a second entrant to market for the development of a Moon lander in parallel with SpaceX, the agency will issue a draft solicitation in the coming months.
This coming achievement will lay out future development requirements and demonstrate the Moon landing ability to take astronauts between orbit and the lunar surface.
This effort is supposed to increase NASA’s support for healthy competition and provide redundancy in services to aid in ensuring NASA’s ability to move astronauts to the surface of the Moon.
“Under Artemis, NASA will carry out a series of groundbreaking missions on and around the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap for humanity — a crewed mission to Mars,” said Bill Nelson, the NASA Administrator.
“Competition is critical to our success on the lunar surface and beyond, ensuring we can carry out a cadence of missions over the next decade. Thank you to the Biden Administration and Congress for their support of this new astronaut lander opportunity, which will ultimately strengthen and increase flexibility for Artemis.”
NASA’s plans need long-term moon exploration and even include landing the first woman and first person of color on the Moon as part of future missions.
NASA is chasing two parallel paths for continuing Moon lander development and demonstration— one that calls for extra work under an existing contract with SpaceX and another contract open to all the other United States companies to create a new landing demonstration mission from the lunar orbit to the lunar surface.
This new second contract award, called the Sustaining Lunar Development contract, mixed with the second option under SpaceX’s original landing award, will make way for more recurring Moon transportation services for astronauts on the Moon.
“This strategy expedites progress towards a long-term, sustaining lander capability as early as the 2026 or 2027 timeframe,” said Lisa Watson-Morgan, the Human Landing System Program program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama.
Watson-Morgan went on to say that NASA expects to have two American companies safely carry astronauts in their lunar landers to the moon under the guidance of NASA before they ask for services.