FAA grounds SpaceX pending a 'mishap investigation' of recent explosive launch

The FAA said that alongside the probe, SpaceX will be required to satisfy additional 'environmental mitigations' before it can be licensed to launch again.


Late last week, SpaceX had quite a resounding failure when its latest rocket launch not only ended in explosion (a "rapid unplanned disassembly" as SpaceX referred to it), but also destroyed the launch platform and rained debris miles past expected areas of effect. Now, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is putting SpaceX’s flights on hold as it launches a mishap investigation. Moreover, SpaceX will be required to adhere to further “environmental mitigation” requirements from the regulator before it can licensed to fly again.

The FAA announced its investigation into SpaceX earlier this week, as reported by CNBC. The investigation is a direct response to the aftermath of the latest SpaceX flight, which took place on April 20, 2023. The flight took off the pad, destroying the launch pad itself and kicking up an unexpectedly large amount of sand and particulates that were spread well beyond expected debris fields established in SpaceX’s own environmental analysis. The investigation is part of normal procedures for FAA in these cases, but in an email to CNBC, the FAA also said the SpaceX explosion activated an “anomaly response plan” which will require SpaceX to satisfy additional “environmental mitigations” before the company can apply to FAA for an amended launch license.

SpaceX flight on April 20, 2023
The explosion during SpaceX's recent uncrewed test flight has forced the FAA to investigate the incident and ground the company until it can show proof of improved environmental safety measures.
Source: SpaceX

In order to satisfy said “environmental mitigations,” SpaceX will need to ensure stronger safety and environmentally protective measures are in place. That will include an analysis by the FAA to ensure that “any system, process, or procedure related to the mishap does not affect public safety.” The SpaceX explosion not only damaged the launch pad and threw debris well beyond expected parameters, but it also posed a danger to local residents and endangered species, which had to deal with the fallout of particulates associated with pulmonary and respiratory issues.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, nonetheless, believes that the company will be ready to fly again in one to two months with the FAA’s approval. Stay tuned as we continue to follow this story for further updates and check out our other SpaceX coverage.

Senior News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player and writer with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. He found his way to the Shacknews roster in late 2019 and has worked his way to Senior News Editor since. Between news coverage, he also aides notably in livestream projects like the indie game-focused Indie-licious, the Shacknews Stimulus Games, and the Shacknews Dump. You can reach him at tj.denzer@shacknews.com and also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

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