FAA's INSANE NEW DECISION to SpaceX Orbital Starship Test Flight!
Published at : 29 Oct 2021
While SpaceX is rapidly innovating with its Starship and needs to test it extensively by
sending it to orbit and have many fans rooting for it, not everybody welcomes the idea.
The only arbiter in the tussle of allowing SpaceX to send its Starship to orbit for the first
time is the Federal Aviation Administrator, FAA!
Join us as we examine what the FAA just with SpaceX and why it changes everything!
The Starship requires rigorous testing because of the sensitivity of its purpose. The
hope of a whole nation rests on it because NASA will use it to resume sending
American astronauts to the moon. At the cost of 2.9 billion dollars, the Starship will carry
out the crucial step of dropping astronauts on the surface of the moon. This trip is going
to be historic because it will achieve many firsts:
It is the first time a female astronaut will walk on the moon! It is also the first time an
African-American will step on the moon!
That's not the end of NASA's use for the Starship, as the Project Artemis is a stepping
stone to Mars! If the Starship delivers on this moon mission, NASA will use it to put its
astronauts on the Red Planet!
This NASA's plan for Mars is different from Elon Musk's own dream of colonizing the
planet. He even set up Starlink for fast satellite internet to raise money for this burning
desire of his!
His dream is to send millions of explorers to Mars to live there permanently. That is not
a small undertaking as he reckons he needs to move one million people from earth to
Mars for his permanent occupation to be feasible.
This requires transporting both cargo and people over vast distances in space. Musk
needs to move much equipment like nuclear microreactors for producing electricity and
other machinery required to keep people alive.
Musk's ambitious scheme requires a powerful rocket, and that is what the Starship is. In
fact, it is the most powerful spaceship ever built by man! Its proportions are immense,
with a total height of 120 meters and a diameter of 9 meters.
This beast of a rocket can lift more than 100 tonnes to low earth orbit with the help of
about 35 Raptor rockets that each produces 2 MN of thrust! SpaceX is building them in-
house using a full flow staged design.
Designing the most powerful rocket is one thing, and it is another thing to design a
reusable rocket. Despite the complexity, SpaceX is doing both with the Starship!
While its existing rockets are partially reusable, the Starship is fully reusable at both
stages! It might look impossible, but that is what Musk is aiming for! He wants the lower
stage to launch several missions in a day, with a turn-around time of 30 minutes
This reusability is important for Musk because that is one of the ways he wants to
reduce the cost associated with space travel. He wants people to be able to fund their
relocation to Mars with money from selling their homes and still have enough money to
start a new life there!
Because of the complexities and great expectations, SpaceX has to test the Starship
before putting it into action thoroughly. It can't afford to fail!
SpaceX has carried out dozens of tests on the Starship. After several prototypes that
have crashed and burned, SpaceX got landing the Starship right with the SN 15
The company has even stacked the two stages together to assemble the tallest ever
rocket, although it quickly separated them for more work. However, all the tests SpaceX
has done have been sub-orbital. It needs to send the Starship to orbit to test some
crucial components and features.
One such component is the heat shield. At the speed with which the Starship will
reenter the atmosphere, lots of heat will be generated, and to protect the spacecraft,
SpaceX is adding heat-resistant ceramic tiles to the surface of the Starship that will bear
SpaceX just has to send a prototype to space to test the solutions it has worked on.
This is where FAA comes in because the Starship is not going anywhere without FAA's
The FAA is the regulator of all the nation's civil aviation activities, including managing air
traffic in the US airspace. Part of its job is regulating the US commercial space
transportation industry. The agency licenses commercial space launch facilities and
private launches of space payloads.
Before SpaceX gets the license it needs to blast the Starship to space, the FAA will
perform an environmental assessment of SpaceX's facilities and operations in Boca
The FAA basically wants SpaceX to demonstrate it has taken all necessary safety
precautions to ensure the minimal risk in case anything goes wrong during the launch
In connection with this, the FAA conducted two hearings to get feedback from members
of the public on the process. Due to COVID restrictions, both hearings were held