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SpaceX says it could fly Starship on Friday, but it depends on one thing

SpaceX has said it could be in a position to perform the second launch of its next-generation Starship rocket this Friday, though it added that it can only happen once it’s received the nod from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Starship preparing to launch as early as November 17, pending final regulatory approval,” SpaceX said in a recent post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Starship preparing to launch as early as November 17, pending final regulatory approval →

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 11, 2023

SpaceX launched its Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft (collectively known as Starship) for the first time in April, but an anomaly caused the vehicle to fail just a few minutes after lift-off, forcing the mission team to blow it up in midair.

No one was on board the rocket, and there were no reports of injuries on the ground. However, SpaceX faced strong criticism after the sheer force of the rocket’s 33 Raptor rocket engines caused the launchpad at its Boca Chica, Texas, facility to disintegrate, sending rubble over a wide area.

The company has since designed a more robust launchpad and following a series of recent engine tests says it’s ready to launch as early as this week.

However, the FAA still has to complete an environmental review to assess the impact of the launch on things like wildlife in the surrounding area. It’s not clear if there’s any likelihood of the FAA giving SpaceX the go-ahead in the next few days.

Last month the FAA said that as part of its environmental review, it was consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on an updated biological assessment under the Endangered Species Act. “The FAA and the USFWS must complete this consultation before the environmental review portion of the license evaluation is completed,” the agency said.

Packing 17 million pounds of thrust at launch, the Super Heavy is the most powerful rocket ever to have flown. SpaceX wants to use it for crewed missions to the moon, Mars, and possibly beyond. NASA has contracted SpaceX to use a modified version of the Starship spacecraft to put two astronauts on the lunar surface in 2025 as part of the Artemis III mission in what would be the first crewed moon landing in five decades.

SpaceX’s social media post came at the same time as Reuters claimed to have uncovered more than 600 previously unreported workplace injuries at SpaceX since 2014. Reuters attributed them at least in part to the rapid pace of work demanded by SpaceX chief Elon Musk in pursuit of his grand ambition to colonize Mars. SpaceX has yet to comment publicly on the investigation.

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