SpaceX: Expert discusses Starship test flights

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SpaceX chief Elon Musk has been known to flout the rules in his various pursuits. He has been warned about his tweeting over cryptocurrency and Tesla, while also claiming humans will never get to Mars under the FAA’s current rules. But his latest renegade behaviour will take some beating.

According to reports, SpaceX ignored warnings from the FAA that it should not launch the SN8 – the first high-altitude Starship test – back in December 2020.

The test of the SN8 saw the rocket launched 12.5 kilometres into the sky, into ‘suborbit’.

Once the rocket was in the air, it began flying effortlessly above the clouds.

The rocket then completed a full circle before landing back on the ground, albeit in a fiery impact.

However, according to documents obtained by The Verge, the launch violated Space’s launch license.

The documents show that SpaceX told the FAA that its software was a “source of frustration” that was “shown to be inaccurate at times or overly conservative.”

As such, SpaceX went ahead with the launch despite not being given full approval from the FAA.

The documents showed that a possible explosion of the SN8 – which did indeed explode – could be exacerbated by weather conditions.

However, the document fell on deaf ears by SpaceX employees who “assumed that the inspector did not have the latest information”, the report read.

The FAA’s space division chief Wayne Monteith said in a letter to SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell that the violation was “inconsistent with a strong safety culture.”

The letter continued: “Although the report states that all SpaceX parties believed that such risk was sufficiently low to comply with regulatory criteria, SpaceX used analytical methods that appeared to be hastily developed to meet a launch window.”

While SpaceX and the FAA seem to be friends again, with Mr Musk’s firm being given a license for three subsequent launches since, the South African-born billionaire still has grievances with the regulatory body.

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After the FAA scrubbed an SN9 launch, Mr Musk said the body was holding humanity back.

He said in a Twitter rant in January: “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.”

The SN9 did eventually launch but again ended in a ball of flames.

It took SpaceX until the SN15 to finally master a landing.

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