(Washington) The US aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, gave the green light on Wednesday for Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX to attempt a second launch of the Starship rocket, the most powerful rocket ever built, after a spectacular explosion in April.
In a press release, the FAA noted that the company “has now met all required standards,” particularly with regard to safety, environment and financial responsibility, after the failure of the first launch of its new generation of rockets.
“We are targeting Friday, November 17 for our second Starship test launch,” SpaceX posted on X, following the FAA’s announcement.
A two-hour launch window will open at 7 a.m. local time (8 a.m. ET) for launch from SpaceX’s base in Boca Chica, Texas.
The development of the spacecraft is closely monitored by NASA, which relies on this spacecraft for its Artemis missions returning to the Moon. The modified version of the machine should actually serve as a lunar lander to deposit astronauts on the lunar surface.
On April 20, the Starship spacecraft lifted off for the first time in its full configuration from Texas. But several engines did not work, and SpaceX teams deliberately exploded the rocket after a few minutes.
The liftoff propelled a cloud of dust several kilometers northwest of the launch pad, leaving it severely damaged. Pieces of concrete were thrown under the power of the engines.
The failure led to an environmental and safety investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and several environmental NGOs announced their intention to sue SpaceX.
“We fear that the second launch will again cause significant environmental damage,” Jared Margolis, a lawyer for the non-governmental Center for Biological Diversity, told AFP.
Starship is a giant rocket 120 meters high, consisting of two stages: the super-heavy propulsion stage and its 33 engines, and above it is the Starship spacecraft, which thus gives its name to the entire rocket.
Its real innovation is that it should be fully reusable, with both stages designed to return to Earth on the launch pad – thus cutting costs.
The flight plan will be the same as it was in April: the spacecraft should attempt to orbit “almost completely around the Earth and dive into the water somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Hawaii,” as the billionaire described. Therefore, technically, it will not reach Earth’s orbit, but will be “just below it.”