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SpaceX submits report on April Starship launch to FAA

SpaceX engages in a static fire test using a new water deluge system on August 6 from its Boca Chica Beach facility.
SpaceX engages in a static fire test using a new water deluge system on August 6 from its Boca Chica Beach facility.

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Four months after SpaceX’s orbital Starship launch attempt, the company has submitted its mishap report to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Starship exploded four minutes after takeoff from the company's site on Boca Chica Beach, destroying the launch pad and sending concrete for nearly a mile in all directions.

Before SpaceX can launch again, the FAA has to approve the report. From there, the FAA will require SpaceX to make changes to its Starship program before the company can launch again. The agency did not provide a timeline for when this would happen.

Those changes are already happening, based on SpaceX’s tests in the last few weeks. SpaceX has added a water deluge system to the facility’s launch pad, which they tested against Starship’s engines on Aug. 6.

The water from that test and a previous one that did not use Starship’s engines has caught the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s attention. The agency, which enforces the environmental policy of the Environmental Protection Agency, is analyzing whether SpaceX is discharging water without the proper permits.

Water from the last test, which was heated from the engines and is considered a pollutant under the EPA, can be seen overflowing into the launch pad’s surrounding wetlands. SpaceX has stormwater permits with the TCEQ but not for wastewater.

The TCEQ declined to comment on whether SpaceX violated the law during the test, saying the investigation was ongoing.

A spokesperson for the FAA said they are assisting TCEQ in determining whether SpaceX’s water deluge system is in accordance with the Clean Water Act.

TPR has filed a FOIA request for SpaceX’s mishap report from the FAA.

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Gaige Davila is a journalist based in the Rio Grande Valley. He was TPR's Border and Immigration Reporter from 2021-2024.