SpaceX Secures Launch License for Second Integrated Flight Test of Starship

SpaceX has been granted a modified license, allowing them to conduct a second integrated flight test of their Starship-Super Heavy vehicle. This comes after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) completed their investigation into the new deluge system at SpaceX’s orbital launch site in Starbase.

The FWS initiated an investigation under the Endangered Species Act, which requires a review of a project if there are significant changes to its environmental impact. In SpaceX’s case, the investigation was triggered by the implementation of a new deluge system at the launch pad, which would release large amounts of water into the surrounding environments and ecosystems.

During the investigation, FWS workers examined the areas surrounding the launch pad and submitted their findings in the Final Biological and Conference Opinion (BCO) addendum. The investigation concluded that the deluge system would help mitigate the impacts of Starship-Super Heavy operations on the environment by reducing sound, vibrations, and assisting in cooling and fire suppression.

The report also mentioned that SpaceX is expected to use the deluge system up to 30 times per year, indicating the frequency of launches from Starbase. It also noted that a planned additional orbital launch mount would include a deluge system, but further design work is required before construction can begin.

The FWS report stated that the deluge system would not significantly change the salinity of existing mud flats or impact other nature-related factors. It also highlighted that SpaceX expects each launch to be associated with two static fire engine tests using the deluge system.

In addition to the FWS investigation, the FAA conducted a safety review of Starship’s launch procedures. SpaceX provided a list of 63 items aimed at improving flight success and reducing the probability of major malfunctions. The FAA approved these steps and completed the safety review on October 31, allowing for the modification of the launch license to include permission for a second flight.

The launch license is specific to Starship’s second integrated flight test and does not guarantee further flights. If SpaceX does not achieve all of its flight goals, it may trigger another mishap investigation and potentially delay a third license modification.

With the launch license in hand, SpaceX announced a flight attempt for November 17. The company has prepared the vehicle for the second flight test, which includes upgraded hardware and the potential to perform a hot staging maneuver to improve efficiency.

Overall, the FWS investigation confirmed that SpaceX’s deluge system would not have significant environmental impacts, while the FAA’s safety review ensures that the launch procedures meet safety standards. SpaceX is now ready to conduct its second integrated flight test of the Starship-Super Heavy vehicle.