Starship explosion prompts FAA to investigate SpaceX for license violations
Elon Musk's Mars mission has hit a regulatory hurdle. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has launched a probe into the failed December landing of the Starship prototype. Two individuals familiar with the incident have revealed that the December launch of the Starship prototype was in violation of FAA rules. This was exacerbated by the explosion of the prototype, which prompted a formal investigation.
SpaceX probed for license violations separate from the Starship explosion
Although the Starship prototype succeeded in its 8-mile ascent, the landing was a calculated risk that resulted in an explosion. Musk nevertheless hailed the test a success, interjecting with "Mars, here we come!!" on Twitter. The FAA had opened an investigation into the matter the same week, which focuses on the landing mishap and SpaceX's refusal to stick to yet unspecified regulatory requirements.
Frustrated Musk calls the regulatory body 'fundamentally broken'
FAA's tightened scrutiny on SpaceX endeavors has held up its upcoming SN9 Starship test. The company had earmarked it for a Thursday launch, but the test didn't proceed as planned. The fact that the 16-story-tall rocket was fueled up and readied for launch indicates that the company hadn't anticipated regulatory delays from FAA. Musk took to Twitter deeming the regulatory body "fundamentally broken".
Musk criticizes FAA; calls it 'fundamentally broken'
Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 28, 2021
Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.
Humanity will never reach Mars under these rules, says Musk
Musk's vision to colonize Mars isn't amenable to the bureaucratic framework of the FAA. The space entrepreneur uncharitably described it as a system designed to handle "a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities." The license violation might be a product of Musk's growing frustration with the failure of the regulatory process to keep up with SpaceX's launch schedules.
Streamlined space licensing system announced, but not incorporated yet
The glacial pace of regulatory licensing is a major source of friction in Musk's insatiable hunger to tame Mars within his lifetime. The US government had announced new streamlined launch licensing regulations last year, but they haven't gone into effect yet. Musk's regulatory woes won't be ending any time soon unless the FAA breaks character and expedites the new licensing regulations.