There has been a lot of confusion about the upcoming #SpaceX #Starship SN9 launch so I thought we should spend a few minutes going over what it means to obtain FAA Approval, what the criteria is, why the FAA is involved along with a number of other questions surrounding the FAA Approval process for all rocket launches performed by US rocket launch provider.

Why so many NOTAMS for Starhopper?

Lunar Starship Animation

0:00 Intro
0:32 What is the FAA’s role?
1:51 How is safety evaluated?
4:24 What approvals are needed for launch?
5:37 Who issues TFRs and NOTAMs?
8:30 How do we know if they have approval?
9:15 Isn’t this the same as SN8?
11:16 Does the FAA hate SpaceX?
11:33 Should regulations be reformed?
12:15 Can they launch in international waters?
13:06 What happened with SN9?


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The maiden flight of SN9, the latest iteration of Elon Musk’s next-generation Starship rocket designed to go to Mars, remains grounded as a new week begins at the SpaceX rocket development facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Last week, SpaceX and Musk engaged in a staring contest with the Federal Aviation Administration, and the FAA did not blink. On Thursday, SpaceX went through the process of loading fuel into SN9 in preparation for a launch at its Texas Gulf Coast facility. But the FAA didn’t give the OK for the flight to take place. Musk aired his frustration with the government agency on Twitter and said: “Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure. 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.” In response to a request for comment, an FAA spokesperson said: “We will continue working with SpaceX to resolve outstanding safety issues before we approve the next test flight.” On Friday morning, the scene began to repeat when residents of nearby Boca Chica Village were evacuated in hopes that the FAA was ready to give the green light. But shortly thereafter residents learned there would be no test launch Friday and it was safe to return home. Then the drama deepened Friday evening when the Verge reported that SpaceX had violated its launch license from the FAA for the December test flight of SN8. The predecessor to SN9 launched from Boca Chica, reached approximately the same altitude where commercial jets do much of their cruising and then oriented itself for a landing. But alas, SN8 came in too fast and met a spectacular and explosive end. SpaceX SN8 flew high and landed hard. It’s not clear what part of SN8’s flight might have violated its FAA launch license, but it appears that SpaceX now seeks to modify its launch license for SN9. Again, the specific nature of the requested modifications is not clear. The FAA didn’t respond to requests for specific comment but did send a general statement: “The FAA will continue to work with SpaceX to evaluate additional information provided by the company as part of its application to modify its launch license. While we recognize the importance of moving quickly to foster growth and innovation in commercial space, the FAA will not compromise its responsibility to protect public safety. We will approve the modification only after we are satisfied that SpaceX has taken the necessary steps to comply with regulatory requirements.” What happens next is uncertain. Obviously SpaceX and the FAA will need to get on the same page before SN9 can fly. The company says it’s targeting Monday for the test launch. However, temporary flight restrictions issued by the FAA and local beach and road closures for the launch zone indicate that sometime Tuesday is the next earliest launch opportunity. Whenever SN9 flies, I’ll be live here. Stay tuned.