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Starship and Superheavy: Ready for launch but still blocked by the White House

Starship stacked on Superheavy, September 5, 2023

Elon Musk yesterday tweeted a short video showing Starship prototype #25 as it was stacked on top of Superheavy prototype #9, stating that both were now ready for their orbital test launch, the second attempt by SpaceX to launch this new rocket.

The image to the right is a screen capture from that movie, showing the full rocket ready to go. When it will go however remains a complete unknown, as Musk himself noted in the tweet: “Starship is ready to launch, awaiting FAA license approval.”

In May I predicted that though Musk predicted at that time that SpaceX would be ready to do this launch in August, it would not happen then or likely for months afterward, because the FAA under the Biden administration is slow-walking all launch approvals for SpaceX, as I showed in detail in a later June essay.

It is now September. SpaceX didn’t meet Musk’s original August ready date for launch, but it only missed that target by about five days. And as I predicted, the FAA has also not yet approved the launch license.

On August 16, 2023 SpaceX submitted its final report of its investigation into the failures and corrections following the April test launch failure. The FAA took it, and has been sitting on it since. It must be emphasized again and again that there is no one at the FAA or anywhere in the federal government qualified to really analyze and investigate that first test launch of SpaceX. All these paper-pushers can do is guess and niggle about what they read. Only the engineers at SpaceX, who are building this totally revolutionary and experimental rocket, can have any understanding of it, both of what works and what doesn’t.

And even if the officials at the FAA are eager to approve the launch license, the decision I guarantee is no longer theirs. Without question higher ups in the Biden administration have called them and demanded a copy of SpaceX’s report, and have said that no launch license will be approved until they give the okay. The launch license application and the report are likely sitting on some desk in the White House, being reviewed quite slowly and carefully by the leftist Democrat apparatchiks there, who now see Elon Musk as a political enemy whom they must squelch in every way possible.

I know I am speculating, but I worked for three years in the FAA, and know how the regulatory process works. As long as there isn’t any political component, or the party in power has no objections, the FAA bureaucrats do their job as quick as they can so as to do no harm to the operations of private companies. Add politics, or have an anti-business President in power, and none of that good will matters. All higher officials have to do to slow things down is to insert themselves in the process. The bureaucrats have no choice but to cede responsibility and the decision making to their political bosses.

Furthermore, the full court press by the left against Musk is not limited to the FAA. Environmentalists have already filed a lawsuit against the FAA and SpaceX, claiming the April test launch did great environmental harm (it did not) and that the FAA should issue no more launch licenses. Though SpaceX and the FAA have responded to this suit, calling for its dismissal, from what I can tell the Biden administration and its attorney general has shown in little interest in fighting this suit. Meanwhile, the Justice Department itself has filed its own suit against SpaceX, for different but equally absurd reasons, claiming SpaceX discriminated against non-Americans and illegal immigrants by refusing to hire them, a hiring practice forced on SpaceX by another federal agency, the State Department, which generally forbids rocket companies from hiring non-citizens in order to protect U.S. technology from foreign spies.

All these actions tell me that this very leftist Biden administration has no intentions of allowing SpaceX to launch Starship/Superheavy anytime soon. I fully expect the launch license to be significantly delayed, possibly for the rest of this year.

I also continue to fervently wish I am utterly wrong in this pessimistic appraisal. I also believe strongly that by stating it publicly, I might put some pressure on the Biden administration to do the right thing and get out of the way so that a free American company can do what free American companies have traditionally done, create new things without interference from an oppressive tyrannical government.

Sadly, I also recognize that my influence in these matters is quite inconsequential.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Steve Richter

    There are young establishment types on YouTube who are very excited to see Starship launch into orbit. ( NASA space flight) Just saying, there is a not insignificant interest group who support democrats who want the FAA to approve the launch. Elon is paying good money to hire officials who left NASA. Now is the time for them to earn their pay.
    We should have a betting pool. I think the launch will be within a week. Bigger question is how far does it fly?

  • john hare

    I’m guessing within two weeks Steve. And I don’t think pressure from various sources factors in as much as some believe.

  • From Eric Berger on Twitter just a few minutes ago:

    The SpaceX Starship mishap investigation remains open. The FAA will not authorize another Starship launch until SpaceX implements the corrective actions identified during the mishap investigation and demonstrates compliance with all the regulatory requirements of the license modification process.

    Let me translate: We have been told (and maybe even agree) that SpaceX should not be allowed to launch, and we should come up with whatever ploy we can think of to block it.

  • John

    The obvious question is, “what are the corrective actions from the FAA report and how do they differ from the SpaceX report of 16 August?” Let the FAA show its work to the people they work for.

    Can the FAA mishap investigation be open and still have issued corrective actions? That sounds like a contradiction in their statement.

    No article I’ve seen has mentioned the report from the FAA investigation. The FAA is probably another corrupt institution, so it’s probably safe to assume it’s all LIES.

  • David Eastman

    So it’s about five months since the first orbital launch attempt. In that time, SpaceX has rebuilt and tested a new and improved launch complex, and has built and tested a new and improved version of the rocket. Two pretty amazing feats done by lots of very hard working people putting in long hours. In the meantime, the FAA has done, what, exactly? “The investigation remains open.” They reiterate that no license will be granted until SpaceX makes the corrective actions identified in the investigation.. which is still open.

    While I don’t quite go to Bob’s level of belief that the Biden administration is leaning on the FAA to slow this down, I don’t believe they even have to. Big agencies like the FAA have been captured by the left, and combine that with the typical glacial pace of any government bureaucracy worker, and it takes ages without even needing a wink and nod, much less any kind of intervention. I bet an audit would show that the man hours involved in the FAA review will end up being less than one percent of what SpaceX has done, and that on any given day, the work consisted of sending a message to another worker, who didn’t look at it until the next morning.

  • All: It astonishes and depresses me no end that, even after the last three years, when we were subjected to blatant falsehoods, blacklists, censorship, mandates (from the Biden administration) based on no data that forced many to take experimental drugs that could not do what they promised and we now know can do great harm, when we see this same Biden administration weaponizing the FBI, the CIA, the Justice Department to spy on their political opponents as well as criminalize free speech and ordinary political opposition, when those same agencies under the control of Biden are now even using their power to put people in prison for decades, simply for expressing dissent, I still have intelligent readers who still cannot imagine corruption and the abuse of power by those in the White House, aimed directly at someone (Elon Musk) who they have even publicly stated they consider their enemy.

    It is not like I haven’t documented this abuse of power. All you have to do is spend a few minutes just reviewing the list of my many blacklist columns for the past three years.

    And yet, we get comments here that still doubt the duplicity and greed for power of the Biden administration.

    It boggles my mind how innocent and naive good Americans have become. Tyranny and dictatorship loom over them with increasing power every single day, and they still refuse to recognize it.

  • Steve Richter

    There is no doubt that the democrat party and establishment media and institutions are run by terrible people. Long prison sentences for the Jan 6 protesters – just awful. I think we need to focus on our own thinking and behavior. And Biden and the democrat party are far from omnipotent. Blocking SpaceX to spite Elon is more than a bit perilous for them.

    Our side has to do a lot better. The Wall Street Journal is basically in silent agreement on the imprisonment of the working class Jan 6 protesters. There has been zero discussion of the extent to which the 1st amendment right to peacefully assemble and petition for redress of grievances provides legal protection from prosecution of rowdy protest activity. And where are the mainstream republican presidential candidates on taking on the establishment for criminalizing politics? Missing in action.

    Tactically, on issue after issue, the republicans, my people, are frankly just dumb. Yes, the democrats stole the 2016 election. But then Trump and Fox news focused on foreign ownership of the voting machine manufacturer? It is vote harvesting which brings in millions of votes for party candidates. You have to document case after case where party operatives “encourage” people to vote and deliver their absentee ballots to the poling station. Republicans have to take on the labor unions. What right did they have to sabotage deliveries and put the yellow trucking company out of business? And the UAW demanding more time off and guaranteed employment when they are arguably the reason the big three do not make any passenger vehicles in the US? Republican voters have got to wise up and see that labor unions have done great damage to domestic manufacturing companies and have reduced the number of well paying jobs available to the working class.

  • Max

    To make matters worse, the federal budget is coming up. It’s not a stretch to imagine no continuing resolutions for trillions more dollars, The government will shut down and the Republicans will be blamed for the delay in FAA license approval.

    I blame environmental toxins, plastics, round up, especially “vaccinations” full of mercury… and two dimensional carbon graphene oxide. When they put a needle in your arm you have no idea what’s in it!

  • Milt

    Folks, the people who are now running this country simply do not *want* this nation to have a viable manned space program; it is really as simple as that.

    As Robert observes, “… the leftist Democrat apparatchiks … now see Elon Musk as a political enemy whom they must squelch in every way possible,” and “[the] actions [by sundry regulatory agencies] tell me that this very leftist Biden administration has no intentions of allowing SpaceX to launch Starship/Superheavy anytime soon. I fully expect the launch license to be significantly delayed, possibly for the rest of this year.”

    If The Powers That Be who are currently running this country actually wished for it to remain a leader in space, they would not for a minute put up with this kind of deliberate, well orchestrated obstruction from within its own agencies. If the Apollo program had been conducted in this way we would (like the Russians) probably never have gotten to the moon. But, again, American leadership in space is NOT part of their agenda for this country, and these people do not WANT to have a successful national space program. These people
    essentially hate the country and the culture that they rule over, they despise most of its people, and they do not want it to succeed in any way. What part of this does anyone not “get”?

  • pawn


    It’s not the Biden administration, it’s the entire DC cabal.

    Elon has simply not kissed enough DC butt.

    Sadly this is how things are done these days. If you want to play you’ve got to pay.

    Elon could have easily fixed this but it’s against his nature and now it’s too late. Elon’s a rebel.

  • TallDave

    launch window opens Jan 2025

    or humanity never leaves Earth

    2029 will be too late

  • Ray Van Dune

    If we had a decent White House press corps, someone would have asked Biden to ensure that no political influence is being exerted on the FAA to delay the SpaceX launch. Make them say out loud that they are not interfering, and make them consider that they may someday be asked the same question under oath.

    By the way, I doubt that Biden is even aware of the status of the the Starship vehicle, and more probably even the existence of it! So ask the question to make the Democrat drones on his staff consider if they want to help the boss look bad, again? Not that it’s difficult.

  • markedup2

    This is why I could never run a company that had to interact with the government. My response: If it takes this long to write a report, the issues must be very serious; we’re cancelling all Falcon-9 launches, immediately, until we see the final report – they, too, might be affected.

    Announce it the day before the next govt launch, whatever that might be.

  • markedup2

    Unless we have entirely abandoned the rule of law and property rights and the fifth amendment to the Constitution, the feds can’t simply decide they like a company and confiscate it. They need to institute complex legal actions, such as eminent domain, and even that has to be justified within many limitations.

    The feds can simply decide that they do not like a company (or entire industry; re Operation Choke Point) and kill it, though.

    I’d like to put your assertion to the test. If Musk were to cancel all Falcon-9 launches, how long do you think it would be until he was forced to launch something for the feds? Say the next ISS resupply mission.

  • markedup2: I don’t think you and I should spend time arguing over details, when we really are in agreement. I recognize, as you do, that America is no longer the free nation ruled by laws that existed for more than two centuries. My only point is that those laws are still being enforced (though with increasingly less consistency) and if used properly by SpaceX it can still protect itself from outright confiscation. It might even force the nation back into enforcing those laws properly.

    But as you correctly note, but not for long, and with a great deal of difficulty. You are correctly underlining my point, and doing it even more forcefully than I.

  • Edward

    markedup2 wrote: “This is why I could never run a company that had to interact with the government.

    Oh, It is way too late for that. Every company in existence in the U.S. has a multitude of government agencies overseeing it, making sure that the laws, regulations, and rules are being obeyed. One of the problems is the overlapping overregulation in which rules, regulations, or laws conflict with each other; you can only obey one by breaking another. This is one of the favorite things of a tyranny — the guarantee that everyone is guilty of something that the tyrant can hold over each of them.

  • Alex Andrite

    NOT having read the previous posts, I must say:


    (your edit ok with me Mr.Z.)

  • Marcopohlo

    From what other countries can SpaceX launch, if necessary?

  • Mikk Hayz

    There has ALWAYS been a big government component to starry eyed space kids indoctrination. A fostering of the belief that NASA would do the job, get us there… Where ever THERE was to be, the ISS, the Moon, Mars, where ever. There is a huge marketing machine for the government space operations left over from the Cold War. Just compare the marketing over and over of the NASA “moon rocket” with the zero publicity operations of SpaceX.

    What the curious nature of the modern “spacer kid” engenders is a complete silence in the public sphere over the blocking of the BFR. But they should be visibly agitating, publicly with banner signs “BFR Must Fly” in major cities and DC. Is this going to happen? Or just the trained silence and complacency?

    And oddly enough, this is not an issue that the media will ignore. They’ll be happy to put this crazy fun stuff on their dull repetitive propaganda casts. Crazy fun stuff is fundamentally cool. Stalling the BFR is bad juju. Even kollege kids know this.

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