With SpaceX’s Starship in South Texas, NASA is ‘concerned’ about Artemis’ lunar landing schedule.

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SpaceX’s Starship program is based in South Texas indefinitely as NASA anticipates delays to the Artemis 3-month mission scheduled for late 2025.

“With the challenges that SpaceX has had, it’s really a concern,” he said this week in Washington, D.C., at a joint meeting of the National Academies’ Aeronautics and Space Engineering Council and the Space Research Council.

IT DEPENDS: SpaceX has joined the FAA as a defendant in a lawsuit over the private space company’s launch from South Texas

He expressed concern nearly two months after SpaceX’s first Starship launch ended in an explosion, and the Federal Aviation Administration grounded the rocket program indefinitely as it oversees an investigation into what went wrong.

The space agency’s concerns appear to be at odds with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s recent prediction that the new Starship and renovations to the company’s Boca Chica launch pad could be ready as early as this month, and that it plans five launches by the end of the year.

After years of low-altitude and static testing and the FAA assessing potential environmental impacts, SpaceX conducted its first Starship launch on April 20 from Starbase in Boca Chica. The world’s most powerful missile cleared the launch tower and rose about 24 miles before exploding in the Gulf of Mexico.

It blasted chunks of concrete and metal from the launch platform, sparked a wildfire, spread debris across hundreds of acres of company and state parkland and moved “powdered concrete” more than 6 miles, a federal review said, days after.

IT DEPENDS: Video: SpaceX’s world’s largest rocket explodes minutes after launch in South Texas

Immediately after launch, the FAA said it would oversee the crash investigation and grounded the Starship program. If the results do not pose a threat to public safety, the company can test its rockets again.

Free said at Wednesday’s meeting that NASA would participate in the FAA’s investigation. He noted that he met with Michael O’Donnell, the FAA’s deputy administrator for commercial space transportation, just before the meeting.

“We came from a meeting with the FAA to make sure we were in sync with them,” Free said. “What I’m trying to convey to him is the big picture of everything it takes to get a person to land.”

An FAA spokesman reached by email Thursday said the agency will “provide oversight of the crash investigation led by SpaceX.”

“SpaceX has not submitted a final accident investigation report to the FAA for review and approval, and has not requested license changes to include flights,” he said. “SpaceX must also take any corrective actions that have yet to be identified as part of the incident investigation.”

An FAA spokeswoman said the agency “cannot predict” when SpaceX will return to testing flying Starship prototypes.

“Public safety and the actions that SpaceX has yet to take dictate the timeline,” he said.

IT DEPENDS: Elon Musk: Another SpaceX launch planned in 6-8 weeks; damage to launch pad ‘minor’

In addition to the FAA investigation, conservation and indigenous groups have sued the federal agency over its initial approval of the Starship program, which they say was granted “without thorough analysis” of the environment and wildlife along the South Texas coast.

Rio Grande Valley environmental group Save RGV joined Texas’ Carrizo Comecrudo Nation, an indigenous group, and others in filing a federal lawsuit May 1 demanding a new environmental impact statement, a lengthy process that could delay testing and commissioning. years.

SpaceX joined the FAA as a defendant in the lawsuit to protect its business. The company said it has invested $3 billion in Starbase development since 2014, and Musk recently said the company expects to spend about $2 billion on Starship development this year.

“If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, the FAA’s decision could be overturned and further licensing of the Starship/Super Heavy program could be significantly delayed, which could seriously harm SpaceX’s business,” the company wrote in a May filing. 19.

Speaking to colleagues on Wednesday, NASA Administrator Free reiterated that NASA has a “firm contract” with SpaceX to build a manned lander to take astronauts to the Moon.

“It’s their job to bring it to us,” he said, “and I’m going to hold them accountable for that.”

But he seemed wary of estimating the mission’s timeline.

“They have to fly before we can get any kind of assessment,” Free said.

Because it has a fixed-price agreement with its own space company, the delays won’t add to NASA’s deal with SpaceX.

“But the fact is, if they don’t fly when they say, if we have a fixed price contract, it doesn’t do us any good, otherwise we won’t overpay, and that’s important,” Tegin said. said.

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.


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