SpaceX granted approval for Starship re-launch

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US aviation regulators have signed off SpaceX’s licence application to launch its Starship and Super Heavy rocket on Friday.

The test flight will effectively be a ‘re-do’ of April’s failed attempt, which saw the 120-metre rocket explode as it ascended over the Gulf of Mexico.

A SpaceX statement on X (formerly Twitter) after that launch said: “With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve.”

A spaceship on a launch pad pictured at sunset
Workers put the finishing touches on SpaceX’s Starship in September. Credit: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The US Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the Elon Musk owned company had complied with its safety and environmental requirements when it granted SpaceX launch approval on Wednesday.

Concerns had been raised following April’s attempt, with reports that large pieces of concrete, steel sheeting and other material had been blasted hundreds of metres from the launch pad in Boca Chica in Texas.

Following the April launch explosion, SpaceX identified a series of fires from propellant leaks in the Super Heavy booster rocket which reportedly severed connections to the flight computer. This resulted in a cascade of failures that led to the vehicle’s demise 39km above ground level.

In a statement ahead of the launch, SpaceX confirmed it’s implemented “leak mitigations and improved testing on both engine and booster hardware”.

SpaceX holds nearly US$5 billion in NASA contracts across more than a dozen missions, among them agreements to land astronauts on the Moon from 2025. 

The Starship-Super Heavy rocket launch window lasts 20 minutes from 7:00am US central time on Friday 17 November (noon UTC, 11:00pm AEDT).

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