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FAA bureaucrats block SpaceX Starship test flight

Capitalism in space? It is now confirmed that the test flight of SpaceX’s ninth prototype of its Starship rocket was scrubbed because of the FAA’s refusal to approve the license. To quote the FAA:

We will continue working with SpaceX to resolve outstanding safety issues before we approve the next test flight.

Typically vague bureaucratic language. There is no word on why the government did this. The flight of Starship prototype #8 proved SpaceX has full control over its vehicle, to the point they could put it down right on target. Why the FAA should now suddenly get cold feet is inexplicable.

There is one difference between now and the December 9th flight of Starship prototype #8. Then the president was Republican Donald Trump, and the Senate was controlled by the Republicans. Now the president is Democrat Joe Biden, and both houses of Congress are in Democratic Party control. It would not surprise me in the least if some Biden officials called the FAA and demanded they impose stricter safety restrictions on SpaceX, and that they did so at the very last minute.

Or to put it another way, someone in the Biden administration essentially wanted to tell SpaceX, “Nice rocket company you got here. Sure would be a shame if something happened to it.”

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  • David K

    Many of us have been speculating about just this. Hopefully it is just a couple of forms and they will be flying again soon. I hate to think of the damage if they delay it by 4 years. However, they do have some off shore platforms they can use and there is now an export license to the UK, so maybe there are some other options.

    I would really like to see something from the new administration about space, even if just to acknowledge that it exists.

  • NavyNuke

    Just think of all that CO2 that was not discharged into the atmosphere today. Baby steps, baby!

  • Col Beausabre

    Regulators gotta regulate 1, To prove their power 2. To justify their paycheck 3. Because they are staffed with people who view the regulatees as evil people who need to be controlled “for the sake of the children” (to use one of their favorite sayings). They’re the sort of goodie-goodies who snitched to teacher in school,

    What’s your social credit score, comrade….

  • Steve Rogers

    I was afraid of this. Look for the Biden/Harris administration to slow roll SpaceX for the next four years.

  • V-Man

    You’re presuming the Biden/Harris administration will last more than a few months, let alone four years. At the rate they are pissing off people — even people who voted for them! — the whole thing is a powder keg waiting for a lit match.

    And to (mis)quote Ray Bradbury: “…the world is full of people running about with lit matches.”

  • Icepilot

    I’d expect a mob of cutting torches to land on both Phobos & Deimos. 13 miles from Boca Chica, SpaceX is free to do as they like.


    As I always says, the Left doesn’t want to solve problems. Solve a problem, lose an issue. Lose an issue, lose power and control. Can’t be replacing that jobs program to nowhere, aka the SLS, now can we?

  • James Street

    Musk’s problem is he doesn’t have enough diversity* in his work force.

    Democrats be like “Here, let us help you with that”.

    Justice Department investigating Elon Musk’s SpaceX following complaint of hiring discrimination

    *Diversity as defined by Democrats.

  • Mitch S

    David K wrote: “I would really like to see something from the new administration about space, even if just to acknowledge that it exists.”
    I hope the new admin forgets about space, productive space exploration will be better off without their attention.

    As far as the FAA, I usually want to hold my opinion until more info is available.
    It’s the natural function of a bureaucracy to CYA (cover their behinds)and guard their turf. If SpaceX had a permit that expired 11:59 pm Wed and SpaceX didn’t get an extention application in on time.. well, the rules have to be followed.
    And if something does go terribly wrong, FAA pencil pushers/keyboard jockeys want to be able to say they held Space X to every rule and regulation.
    So it may be just standard bureaucracy vs maverick privateer.
    Though this article made me wonder if the winds are indeed turning against SpaceX:
    (I remember a time when companies got in trouble for hiring non-citizens without proper paperwork.

  • Ray Van Dune

    In all probability this is not about political interference, but just powerful people, used to getting their way, and butting heads when their way is challenged.

    That being said, I wish I was confident that Biden was smart enough to simply let SpaceX succeed and take credit for it, but I really am not sure he has even that much sense.

  • Dan

    Am I the only one who sees the direct connection between the Musk tweet about Gamestop and the sudden ‘safety’ issues that would delay a launch?

    Never underestimate the willingness of the Washington elite to find a way to punish you for bucking the system.

  • Willi

    Perhaps Musk’s visit to Indonesia was because he saw this coming…

  • Dave

    I have worked in government for 31 years and i have a distinct feeling about what happened today. For almost 5 years I scheduled interagency activity and one thing I’ve learned is that you are doing great if you get what you asked for. Once you want more than you ask for, theres trouble. Spacex scheduled TFRs for today and got approval. With my experiance to gage against, thats success (remember, government). With winds exceeding limits, spacex advised the faa there would be no launch, therefore, the agency canceled the TFRs and probably planned on going on break. As I understand it, spacex wanted to continue with the test as winds were not as excessive as predicted, and applied for another TFR to do the flight. I have no doubt the faa has no flexibility to issue clearance in such short order as requested mostly due to having never been asked to do so before. I have experienced that low level functionaries are usualy to blame in these instances. I have no doubt that the industrial space complex hates to see the developmental success spacex is having but today seems to be just a bureaucratic tendency. Big money will doubt find a resolution.

  • David Eastman

    To the people saying that getting the ocean platforms up and running is the solution, then SpaceX can go about their business unhindered.. nope. SpaceX is still a US company, and per the moon treaty, the US is responsible for regulating them, even if they launch from international waters. Now, the number of hurdles they’d have to meet *might* go down a lot since there would be less in the hazard zone, but then again it might not, ‘crats gotta ‘crat.

    From the little info out there in public so far, it sounds like there was a legitimate issue to resolve, SpaceX jumped on it with their usual gusto, and the FAA is reacting with typical glacial speed, wanting to start up a review process that will take days or more to complete.

  • Ian C.

    David K,

    Do you know more about the export license to the UK? I found only things related to Starlink.

    James Street, Mitch S,

    Quoting from one of the articles:

    “(…) the Charging Party’s interview for the position of Technology Strategy Associate, SpaceX made inquiries about his citizenship status and ultimately failed to hire him for the position because he is not a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident”

    Isn’t that even in the laws that SpaceX, as a missile (i.e. defense) company, can hire only citizens/LPRs? And “technology strategy” sounds like a position that definitely allows no exception. Why does DOJ make that an issue, aren’t the regulations clear about it?


    Nice. What else do you see?


    Unless I miss something, SpaceX as an American company can expand to other countries only with the FAA (and all the interagency stuff in the background) giving its okay. Like when Rocketlab launches from New Zealand. The FAA can issue licenses that cover multiple launches, but if it sees the need to interfer, it will.

  • eddie willers

    I’m guessing Jeff Bezos will be getting some love from the Democrats.

    God knows they owe him.

  • wayne

    -a relevant clip-

  • wayne

    Little Caesar
    “Rico’s taking over this territory….”

  • Jeff Wright

    About those platforms…didn’t Norm Nixon propose the mile long FREEDOM ship as its own country a couple decades ago? Something to consider. It could also be a space elevator base as well.

  • James Street

    I think this is ultimately all about the transfer of SpaceX’s technology to China.

    Being a private company SpaceX has been able to keep tight control of their technology. The godless Chicom commies own the Democrats and want SpaceX’s technology. If you read the godless Chicom commies’ future plans like their China Standards 2035 and Belt and Road Initiative you’ll see they believe they are the master race and destined to rule the world.

    Where have we heard that before?

    And yes the godless Chicom commies commit genocide. Tibet is unavailable for comment.

  • Mike Borgelt

    Beelzebezos getting his friends in the Demonrats to sandbag Musk?

  • Jean

    Zuckerberg finally got his Athena satellite up, and since everyone has been so quiet about it – I will assume it’s a brick. He paid 300M for Biden, since he can’t get up on his own, he will use naked cash to impede Elon.

    The FAA and FCC only gave Swarm a little wristlet, and I assume Elon can afford better lawyers – have Texas DPS issue a NOTAM and launch anyway.

  • Marcus

    Biden has a moon rock in the oval office. At least he is aware of space. Not sure beyond that. Also, might be a good idea to learn a little more before blaming the Biden administration with no evidence. Feels a little early to go down that road. (Just because it is plausible doesn’t mean it is right. Plenty of other plausible explanations. In my personal experience it’s often harmful when I jump to conclusions)

  • Xopher


    “(Just because it is plausible doesn’t mean it is right. Plenty of other plausible explanations. In my personal experience it’s often harmful when I jump to conclusions)”

    Good advice. “Photos and video, or it didn’t happen,” is a good attitude for every claim, even if the claim is highly plausible.

    The Podesta e-mails were real, and it allowed plausible claims made by random anonymous (posting as “Q”) to end with grifters bilking people out of their money selling nonsense-filled QAnon books.
    Example of one of these grifters, Preying Medic [my spelling]:

  • BigAngrySquatch

    The feds are clear as mud. I bet even SpaceX doesn’t know what they’re asking for, heck the FAA might mot even know. Lol

    If it pleases the crown, may we as lowly peasants who pays thees salary, exactly know what [deleted] you are up to?

  • BigAngrySquatch: I have deleted the obscenity from your comment.

    Please read the rules, which are right there in front of you. Next time you do it I will suspend you for a week.

  • Mike Borgelt

    “Biden has a moon rock in the oval office. At least he is aware of space.”

    I’m not so sure Biden is actually aware of much that’s going on around him. He’s just the puppet. Someone else is pulling the strings.

  • Jeff Wright

    I could not blame Musk if he did defect to China, Say what you will, they don’t put up with gangsta’ brat terrorists in their schools. In terms of silencing speech, it would be a shame if a citizen used a Big Ugly Dish to jam Athena…

  • Donald Jourdian

    The head of the FAA is a Trump appointee

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