SpaceX given the green light to launch its Starship rocket on Friday

The US aviation regulator, the FAA, gave SpaceX the go-ahead on Wednesday for Elon Musk’s aerospace company to make a second attempt at launching its Starship rocket, the most powerful ever built, following a spectacular explosion in April.

In a press release, the FAA indicated that the company has now “met all the necessary criteria,” particularly in terms of safety, environmental and financial responsibility, following the failure of the first launch of its next-generation rocket.

“We are targeting Friday, November 17th for the second Starship test launch,” SpaceX posted on X (formerly Twitter), following the FAA’s announcement.

The two-hour launch window will open at 7:00 a.m. local time (1:00 p.m. GMT) for launch from SpaceX’s base in Boca Chica, Texas.

The development of the Starship is being watched very closely by NASA, which is counting on this craft for its Artemis missions when returning to the Moon. A modified version of the machine must actually serve as a lunar lander to deposit astronauts on the surface of the moon.

On April 20, Starship took off from Texas for the first time in its complete configuration. But several engines failed, and SpaceX teams deliberately blew up the rocket after a few minutes.

The takeoff sent a cloud of dust several kilometers northwest of the launch pad, which itself was badly damaged. Chunks of concrete were catapulted under the power of the engine.

The failure led to an environmental and safety investigation by the FAA, and several environmental NGOs announced their intention to sue SpaceX.

“We fear that this second launch will again create significant damage to the environment,” Jared Margolis, a lawyer for the NGO Center for Biological Diversity, told AFP.

The Starship is a huge rocket 120 meters high, consisting of two stages: the Super Heavy propulsion stage and its 33 engines, and above it the Starship spacecraft, after which the entire rocket is named.

Its real innovation is that it has to be completely reusable, and the two stages are designed to return to earth on their launch pad — keeping costs down.

The flight plan will be the same as in April: the spacecraft must try to make “almost a complete circumnavigation of the Earth and dive into the water somewhere in the Pacific, not far from the coast of Hawaii,” described the billionaire. So technically it won’t reach Earth’s orbit, but will be “just below”.

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