SpaceX has taken a major step toward the second test launch of the most powerful rocket ever to fly after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it had finished its safety review, which looks at the extent to which the launch might pose a hazard to public health and nearby property.
The Super Heavy rocket and the Starship spacecraft — collectively known as the Starship — flew for the first time in April this year, but the uncrewed vehicle suffered an anomaly minutes after launch, which led to it exploding in midair.
Following a series of engine tests and the redesign of the launchpad, which shattered under the force of the launch from SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, last spring, SpaceX says it’s ready to fly again.
But before that can happen, the FAA still has to complete an environmental review that will assess the impact of the launch on things like wildlife in the surrounding area.
“The FAA is continuing to work on the environmental review,” the agency said in a statement seen by Space.com. “As part of its environmental review, the FAA is consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on an updated Biological Assessment under the Endangered Species Act. The FAA and the USFWS must complete this consultation before the environmental review portion of the license evaluation is completed.”
The FAA added that the environmental review is the last major step that needs to be completed before the agency makes a final decision on handing SpaceX a launch permit.
NASA is waiting on the FAA and SpaceX as it’s planning to use a modified version of the Starship spacecraft for the Artemis III mission to put the first astronauts on the moon since the final Apollo mission in 1972. Artemis III is supposed to take place in 2025, but that date could slip.
In the future, the Starship rocket, which packs a colossal 17 million pounds of thrust at launch, could even be used for crewed missions to Mars and beyond, but first it has to achieve its maiden orbital flight in a test mission that will hopefully take place before the end of this year.