FAA ends Starship mishap investigation; SpaceX required to take 63 corrective actions

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The Federal Aviation Administration announced Friday morning that it has closed the mishap investigation into SpaceX’s first Starship orbital launch attempt, which ended in the spacecraft exploding over the Gulf of Mexico about four minutes after launch from the company’s Boca Chica Beach facility on April 20.

SpaceX’s Starship launches from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, Thursday, April 20, 2023. The giant new rocket exploded minutes after blasting off on it first test flight and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

“The final report cites multiple root causes of the April 20, 2023, mishap and 63 corrective actions SpaceX must take to prevent mishap reoccurrence,” the FAA reported. “Corrective actions include redesigns of vehicle hardware to prevent leaks and fires, redesign of the launch pad to increase its robustness, incorporation of additional reviews in the design process, additional analysis and testing of safety critical systems and components including the Autonomous Flight Safety System, and the application of additional change control practices.”

The FAA said closing the mishap investigation does not mean it will immediately allow Starship launches at Boca Chica to resume.

“SpaceX must implement all corrective actions that impact public safety and apply for and receive a license modification from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental and other applicable regulatory requirements prior to the next Starship launch,” the FAA said.

The agency said it oversaw the SpaceX-led investigation to ensure the company complied with its FAA-approved mishap plan and other regulatory requirements, and that the FAA was involved in each step of the investigation, granting NASA and the National Transportation Safety Board official observer status.

“The mishap investigation report contains proprietary data and U.S. Export Control information and is not available for public release,” according to the agency.