During a public meeting on June 7, 2023, a NASA official expressed concerns that the FAA’s slow launch permit process for SpaceX’s test program for developing Starship/Superheavy will end up seriously delaying the first Artemis manned lunar landing, presently targeting a December 2025 launch date.
The official, Jim Free, was very careful how he worded his comments, but the FAA issue loomed large in his mind.
Free said NASA met with the Federal Aviation Administration recently to discuss the importance of the Starship rocket to the space agency’s moon exploration plans. The FAA is overseeing SpaceX’s investigation into the problems encountered on the April 20 test launch, when the flight termination system took longer to destroy the rocket than expected. The destruct system is designed to terminate the flight before an errant rocket threatens populated areas.
The FAA is not expected to grant SpaceX another Starship launch license until the investigation is complete, and federal regulators are satisfied with changes to the rocket to address any public safety concerns. “They just have to get flying,” Free said of SpaceX. “When you step back and you look at (it), that’s a lot of launches to get those missions done, so our FAA partners are critical to that.”
For the FAA to treat SpaceX’s test program like ordinary launches, requiring a detailed investigation by it after every test flight, will likely delay the development of Starship/Superheavy by years.
Following the early suborbital tests of Starship, the FAA did not “oversee” the investigations. The FAA merely observed closely SpaceX’s investigation, and let it move forward when SpaceX was satisfied. Now the FAA wants to determine for itself when each launch will occur, even though there is no one at the FAA truly qualified to do that. The result will be endless delays and paperwork, and many fewer flights spaced many more months apart, none of which will do anything to aid the development.
NASA is obviously trying to get the FAA to see this, but we must remember that the change in policy at the FAA almost certainly came from the Biden administration, which doesn’t care as much for getting to the Moon as it does wielding its power to hurt Elon Musk, whom it now sees as a political opponent. Expect NASA’s pleas to fall on deaf ears.
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