Elon Musk’s SpaceX could be ordered to take down its huge Starship launch tower in Boca Chica, the FAA has warned

Elon Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk

  • The FAA told SpaceX it could ask the company to take down its Boca Chica rocket-assembly tower.
  • SpaceX is already building the tower – but it doesn’t have FAA approval yet.
  • An FAA spokesperson told Insider that “the company is building the tower at its own risk.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned Elon Musk’s SpaceX that it could order the company to take down its new rocket-assembly tower at its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, Reuters reported.

The tower is being constructed for future launches of SpaceX’s Starship rocket, which could begin in July, according to the company’s president Gwynne Shotwell.

An FAA environmental review of the Boca Chica launch site including SpaceX’s proposed Super Heavy rocket and tower is still underway and therefore “the company is building the tower at its own risk,” an FAA spokesperson told Insider.

The FAA sent a letter to SpaceX in May saying that work to build one of its proposed towers “may complicate the ongoing environmental review process for the Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program,” Reuters said. The FAA needs to complete its review before SpaceX can obtain a launch license for the Boca Chica site.

Read more: These 4 companies are leading the charge in ‘space vacations’ – from giant balloon flights to orbital hotels

“It is possible that changes would have to be made at the launch site, including to the integration towers to mitigate significant impacts,” the FAA letter said, per Reuters. The FAA added that it had only learned that the integration tower was being built “based on publicly available video footage.”

The FAA said SpaceX told it in May that it doesn’t think the review is necessary because it plans to use the launch tower “for production, research, and development purposes and not for FAA-licensed or permitted launches,” per Reuters’ report.

But the FAA said that SpaceX documentation “indicates otherwise,” including one document saying that the towers would be used to integrate the Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle, the report said.

The FAA had completed an environmental review of the Boca Chica site in 2014 but it told SpaceX in the May letter that the “480-foot-tall integration tower is substantially taller than the water tower and lightning towers” it had previously assessed.

SpaceX and the FAA did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

This is the latest in a series of clashes between SpaceX and the FAA.

As part of the agency’s environmental assessments, SpaceX needs to ensure that the Starship-Super Heavy system won’t harm nearby wildlife or ecosystems around its Boca Chica launch pad. Without FAA approval and a launch license, SpaceX’s first Starship orbit mission could be delayed, a source told CNN in June.

Musk blasted the agency in February for canceling SpaceX’s Starship flight following a reported launch license violation, and claimed that “humanity will never get to Mars” under new FAA rules.

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Flight attendants will get self-defense lessons to protect themselves from violent passengers, the TSA said, as reports of unruly flyers reach record highs

flight attendant mask covid
Flight attendants they have gotten sick less due to pandemic-era cleaning protocols.

  • The Transportation Security Administration will restart self-defense classes for flight crews from July, it said Thursday.
  • The training, paused during the pandemic, would “deter assaults against officers and flight crew,” it said.
  • Flight attendants told Insider earlier in June that they felt burnt out from dealing with aggressive passengers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Flight attendants will get self-defense training from July to stop violent passengers assaulting staff, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced in a Thursday press release.

The voluntary training, led by federal air marshals, was paused during the pandemic, but the TSA said it was bringing the classes back to “deter assaults against officers and flight crew.”

Flight attendants told Insider earlier in June that they felt burnt out from dealing with aggressive passengers as travel bounced back.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has so far reported more than 3,000 incidents of unruly passenger behavior in 2021, most involving travelers refusing to comply with the federal mask mandate.

The FAA has opened 487 investigations into passenger incidents – more than triple the number from 2019, before the pandemic started, and the highest number since the agency started listing its investigations in 1995.

The TSA said passengers had also assaulted security staff, noting two separate cases this month where it said TSA airport officers were attacked. In one incident, a traveller bit two officers and faces a $13,910 civil fine, the TSA said.

The TSA said in the press release that it may “pursue criminal charges and a civil penalty up to the maximum allowable by law” for unruly passengers.

Airports welcomed 2.1 million air passengers on June 20, up from 590,456 for the same day in 2020, and the highest number since March 7 last year, according to TSA data.

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Airline check-ins won’t turn into a ‘Weight Watchers-like’ scenario, despite passengers being heavier, say industry experts

Managing Director of investment bank Cowen Helane Becker wears a blue top with a large green necklace
Helane Becker, an airlines analyst and managing director of investment bank Cowen.

  • Airlines won’t weigh passengers to stay within safety limits despite being heavier, says experts.
  • Airlines can conduct passenger surveys and use CDC population averages to calculate weights.
  • American Airlines told Insider that its average passenger is now eight pounds heavier.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Airline passengers have gotten heavier, but companies are unlikely to weigh individual passengers at the check-in desk to help keep an aircraft within its safety limits, two industry experts told Insider.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates commercial airlines, told Insider that while weighing passengers was “an option,” most companies would use other methods.

Henry Harteveldt, president of travel research firm Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider that this was highly unlikely to happen.

“The airline check-in experience is not going to turn into a Weight Watchers-like scenario,” he said. “Airlines do not ask passengers how much they weigh, and they’re not about to start doing so.”

American Airlines told Insider on June 10 that its average customer now weighs 182 pounds in summer and 187 pounds in winter, an “eight-pound increase for both seasons,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Unnamed airline officials also told the Wall Street Journal that average passenger and baggage weights had risen between 5% and 10%, but did not specify over what period.

The FAA gave companies until June 12 to submit new average passenger weight estimates, a vital part of an aircraft’s weight and balance calculations needed for safe travel.

The agency gives airlines options for how to calculate passenger weights, including weighing customers before boarding, or by asking them to volunteer their weight – in this case, the FAA’s advisory document says that operators “should make a reasonable estimate” of a passengers’ weight if they believe that it had been “understated.”

But Helane Becker, airlines analyst and managing director of investment bank Cowen, told Insider that she doesn’t see this occurring in the US.

She said the trend in rising passengers weights is not new, and that she expects to see “airlines adjusting charges for overweight bags.”

“It is likely they will accept less mail and other small packages to be able to stay under weight limits,” Becker said.

Other FAA options include conducting random passenger weight surveys, or using official population weight estimates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

American and Southwest Airlines told Insider that they use figures from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to calculate weight and balance.

The most recent NHANES published in January shows the average US adult male weighs 199.8 pounds, up 4.1 pounds from the previous report in 2016, while the average US woman weighs 170.8 pounds, an increase of 2.3 pounds over the same period.

American also told Insider that there would be no changes to its customer experience, despite the revised weight estimates.

Industry body Airlines for America, which speaks on behalf of ten major airlines, said in an emailed statement it didn’t “anticipate there will be any noticeable changes” for customers.

Delta Air Lines said they had developed an “implementation plan” to minimize any impact on customers, although it did not share any details.

Alaska Airlines told Insider that the impact of weight changes would be “negligible” and would only “effect select long-haul routes during headwind conditions.”

United Airlines declined to share their FAA weight submission with Insider. JetBlue did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Airlines could hike charges on overweight baggage because passengers are getting heavier, according to an industry expert

Passengers sit in an American Airlines airplane before flying from California to North Carolina
Passengers board an American Airlines flight from California to North Carolina

  • Airlines could use higher passenger weights to charge more for baggage, says an industry expert.
  • American Airlines said its average passenger weights had risen by eight pounds.
  • But experts say airlines are unlikely to weigh passengers before they board their flights.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Airlines could hike charges on overweight baggage as they try to account for heavier passengers, an industry expert told Insider.

American Airlines confirmed to Insider on June 10 that its average passenger weights had increased, while airline officials told the Wall Street Journal that average passenger and baggage weights had risen between 5% and 10%, but did not say over what period.

Henry Harteveldt, president of travel research firm Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider that he wouldn’t be “surprised if airlines use the higher passenger weight estimates to charge passengers more money.”

Airlines might reduce their weight limit for checked bags, increase charges for overweight luggage, or both, he said.

“Somewhere, in the bowels of an airline’s headquarter building, a zealous financial analyst is licking her or his lips, relishing the chance to use this as an opportunity extract more money from that airline’s passengers.”

Weight estimates are used to calculate the weight and balance of the aircraft before take off – vital data needed to ensure the plane can fly safely. Keeping within weight limits can be harder in hotter climates and at higher altitudes where more energy is needed to lift the plane, requiring more fuel.

Airlines had until June 12 to submit new average passenger and baggage weight estimates to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the government body that regulates commercial airlines, the Journal reported.

An American Airlines spokesperson told Insider that its average passenger weight was 182 pounds in summer and 187 pounds in winter, “an 8-pound increase for both seasons.” The spokesperson also said that American expects carry-on baggage to be five pounds heavier in new estimates, and checked bags to be 4 pounds heavier.

American told Insider it plans to use larger aircraft for flights where it anticipates there may be weight issues, and limit ticket sales “if necessary.” It added, however, that most of its flights are able to accommodate heavier passengers. A company spokesperson said there would be no change in customer experience following the weight changes.

Harteveldt said airlines “constantly” look for ways to reduce aircraft weight, for example, by buying lighter seats, scrapping in-seat entertainment hardware, and reducing the size of toilet cubicles.

Harteveldt added that he has even known airlines to buy lighter cutlery and cups to save weight, and stocking the plane with fewer food and drink items.

Helane Becker, airlines analyst and managing director of investment bank Cowen, told Insider that the “trend in heavier people has been going on for years,” and that she expected airlines to both change overweight bag charges and accept less mail and fewer small packages.

Southwest Airlines told Insider that the FAA had approved its submission in early June and had no plans to “increase overweight or oversized baggage fees.”

Industry body Airlines for America, which speaks on behalf of 10 major airlines, also said that it doesn’t “anticipate there will be any noticeable changes” for customers, in an emailed statement.

Delta Air Lines said they had developed an “implementation plan” to minimize any impact on customers, although did not share any details.

Read the original article on Business Insider

FAA proposes combined $100,000 in fines for 4 unruly plane passengers, including man who tried to enter the cockpit

airplane passengers interior
A flight attendant.

  • The FAA announced four civil penalties against passengers totaling more than $100,000 on Monday.
  • The proposed fines stem from incidents of unruly and/or dangerous passenger behavior in recent months.
  • The fines range in amount from $9,000 to $52,500.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Misbehaving in the air may cost delinquents a hefty price as the Federal Aviation Administration cracks down on misconduct amid a surge of troubling episodes in recent months.

The US Department of Transportation agency announced Monday a slew of proposed fines totaling more than $100,000 against four airline passengers accused of interfering with and in one case, assaulting flight attendants.

The largest single civil penalty checks in at $52,500 for a man who had to be physically restrained, according to the FAA.

The most extreme incident happened on a Delta flight from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Seattle, Washington, in December, when a passenger tried to open the cockpit door after repeatedly refusing to comply with crew members’ instructions, the FAA said. The man then physically assaulted a flight attendant, hitting him in the face and pushing him to the floor, before charging at him and threatening him as he tried to restrain the passenger. According to the FAA, flight attendants with the help of another passenger were able to put the man in plastic handcuffs, but the passenger eventually freed himself from the restraints and hit the flight attendant a second time. When the plane landed, police officers took the man, who now faces a $52,500 fine, into custody.

The FAA has proposed a fine of $27,000 against a passenger who made a bomb threat on a Southwest flight from Phoenix, Arizona, to Chicago, Illinois, on January 1. According to the agency, the man began yelling and banging his hands on the seat in front of him shortly after boarding the plane. During the flight, he yelled numerous threats, including that he was going to kill someone, that he had a bomb, and that he was going to blow the plane up. Flight attendants had to relocate multiple passengers nearby and the captain eventually diverted the flight to Oklahoma City, where police took the man into custody.

A JetBlue passenger faces an $18,500 alcohol-related fine stemming from a February flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Las Vegas, Nevada. According to the FAA, a flight attendant noticed the man holding several mini alcohol bottles that the flight crew had not served to him. The attendant told him “multiple times” that he could not drink personal alcohol, but he continued to do so. The man is also accused of failing to comply with the airline’s required mask mandate, wearing it improperly several times and then removing it altogether.

The fourth fine announced Monday also derives from a mask-related incident when a female passenger on an Allegiant Air flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Knoxville, Tennessee, refused to put her mask on properly after being instructed to by flight attendants multiple times. Later in the flight, the FAA said she sat in an exit row while waiting to use the restroom. When a flight attendant told her she couldn’t sit in the exit row, she screamed in the flight attendant’s face while not wearing her mask. When another crew member attempted to give the passenger a disturbance form, the woman began to curse and told the attendants they “couldn’t do anything.”

All four incidents break federal law, which prohibits anyone from interfering with airplane crews or threatening to assault anyone on a flight. The agency said passengers are thus subject to civil penalties because dangerous behavior can disrupt or distract the crew from vital safety duties.

The FAA does not identify individuals who face fines and according to the agency, the passengers have 30 days after notice of the fines to respond to the agency.

Earlier this year, the FAA tightened restrictions on unruly passengers who cause disturbances and refuse to follow crew members’ instructions on commercial flights. The January special order followed multiple incidents linked to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The agency has extended the order indefinitely.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Minutes after a seemingly successful landing, SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded on the pad

starship sn10 landing
The SN10 reignites its three Raptor engines to upright itself and land in this screengrab from a SpaceX livestream.

SpaceX finally launched a prototype of its Starship rocket miles into the air on Wednesday, then landed it successfully. But 10 minutes later, the rocket exploded.

The roughly 16-story test vehicle – called Starship serial No. 10, or SN10 – lifted off at at 5:14 p.m. on Wednesday. As it climbed, it shut off one engine and then another. The rocket hovered at the peak of its flight for about 30 seconds, then cut its last engine, tipped over, and belly-flopped toward the ground. 

As it neared the ground, the Raptor engines reignited, flipped SN10 upright, and slowly lowered it to the landing pad.

“Third time’s the charm, as the saying goes,” John Insprucker, SpaceX’s principal integration engineer, declared on the company’s livestream.

But a fire persisted around the rocket’s skirt. Then about 10 minutes later, an explosion thrust SN10 back into the air, leaving it in pieces on the landing pad.

The prototype’s predecessors, SN8 and SN9, completed similar high-altitude flights but flubbed their landings. They each slammed into the landing pad and immediately blew up. Still, those flights – and this one – demonstrated that Starship could rocket to high altitudes and control its plummet back to Earth. On Wednesday, SN10 showed that it can land on the ground in one piece, too – at least initially.

A 2-part, fully reusable launch system

sn10 starship
The SN10 lands in one piece on SpaceX’s Boca Chica landing pad, in this screengrab from the test flight livestream.

SpaceX broadcast the test flight, which you can watch in the YouTube video below, minus the delayed explosion. To start, Starship’s three truck-sized Raptor engines roared to life, heaved it off the ground, and rumbled past the launchpad at SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, a remote strip of land in southeastern Texas. After it began its descent, two aerodynamic wing flaps at the rocket’s nosecone and two at its base – operated by an on-board computer – moved independently to control SN10’s fall and maintain its belly-flop position.

SN10 is the upper stage of a system designed to have two parts: A roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would one day heave the Starship spaceship toward orbit.

If it works, the Starship-Super Heavy launch system could slash the cost of reaching space 1,000-fold, since it would eliminate the need to build new rockets and spaceships for each spaceflight. Musk wants to construct a fleet of reusable Starships to power round-the-world hypersonic travel on Earth, fly astronauts to the moon, and one day carry people to Mars.

An eventual flight to low-Earth orbit

illustration starship spaceship rocket ship super heavy booster launching clouds looking down earth spacex
An illustration of SpaceX’s Starship spaceship and Super Heavy rocket booster launching together toward space.

Once SpaceX figures out how Starship can nail its launch and landing, the company will want to rocket a prototype into orbit to test its ability to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. That will require a new type of launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, but obtaining it involves clearing many regulatory hurdles, including a thorough environmental assessment. Depending on the findings of that assessment, it’s possible SpaceX may need to conduct a new environmental impact statement, which could take up to three years.

Complicating matters is a leaked FAA draft document obtained by Insider, which revealed that SpaceX plans to dig natural gas wells and build gas-fired power plants in Boca Chica. Such plans could prolong SpaceX’s environmental review process.

Musk and the FAA have clashed before: SpaceX launched its first high-altitude Starship flight, for its SN8 prototype, without FAA approval, which triggered an investigation.

starhip sn8 nosecone spacex boca chica test flight explosion
The nosecone of the Starship prototype SN8 after it exploded during a test flight, December 10, 2020.

That inquiry was still ongoing, as was another investigation into the causes of SN8’s explosive landing, at the time SpaceX wanted to launch its next Starship prototype, SN9. In January, SpaceX announced that the SN9 was about to fly. But as the rocket sat ready on the launchpad, the FAA suddenly yanked the airspace closure that made way for the rocket’s path. There was no launch that day.

In response to the delay, Musk railed against the FAA on Twitter, saying its space division had “a fundamentally broken regulatory structure” and that “humanity will never get to Mars” under its rules.

The following week, the FAA approved the SN9 launch license updates and gave SpaceX the green light. The rocket soared and crashed, much like its predecessor.

Musk says he is “highly confident” SpaceX will launch an uncrewed Starship to Mars in 2024, followed by a crewed mission in 2026.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Watch live: SpaceX is launching a new Starship rocket prototype. The last 2 attempts ended in explosions.

elon musk spacex starship explosion thumb 4x3
SpaceX’s Starship SN9 prototype failed to ignite one of its engines upon landing, so it slammed into the ground and exploded on February 2, 2021.

SpaceX plans to rocket its latest Starship prototype tens of thousands of feet into the air on Wednesday afternoon.

The challenge is landing it back on the ground – that maneuver has ended in explosion both times the company previously attempted it. This time, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that the prototype has a 60% chance of a successful landing.

The prototype represents the upper stage of a two-part system: Eventually, a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would heave the Starship spaceship toward orbit. Musk’s long-term vision is for the system to one day fly astronauts to the moon and power hypersonic travel on Earth. He has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships in order to carry people and cargo to Mars.

starship sn10 spadre
The SN10 prototype at SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.

But first, SpaceX has to figure out how to land the rocket, since that is critical to making the system reusable. Full reusability could help Starship slash the cost of reaching space 1,000-fold.

The newest prototype is called Starship serial No. 10, or SN10. SpaceX is preparing to launch it at about 4:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday.

A flight computer automatically aborted an attempt to lift off earlier in the afternoon, at 2:14 p.m. The abort was due to a “slightly conservative high thrust limit,” Musk said on Twitter. “Increasing thrust limit & recycling propellant for another flight attempt today.”

When it does lift off, SN10 should roar nearly 33,000 feet above SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. Then one by one, it should shut off its engines as it nears the peak of its flight, flip sideways, and plummet back to Earth in a controlled belly flop. As it nears the ground, the rocket should fire its engines once again to flip itself upright in time to slow its descent and touch down gently on the landing pad.

The last two times SpaceX conducted such a flight, the prototypes slammed into their landing pads and exploded.

SPadre.com captured the second incident from a camera on top of a building about 6 miles away:

 

Watch SN10’s launch attempt live 

SpaceX will start a new live feed a few minutes before launch. We will embed that video below once it’s available. In the meantime, fans of the company are also on the ground and streaming their own live video of the launch site.

We recommend starting with NASASpaceflight‘s video stream, given the broadcasters’ knowledge and multiple quality camera views.

The commentators on the feed keep track of preparations at the SpaceX facilities that indicate progress toward liftoff – things like clearing the launchpad, activity in the tank farm next to SN10, and the loading of liquid propellant into the rocket. 

LabPadre offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. Below is the channel’s main 4K-resolution feed.

For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a hotel resort in South Padre Island about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.

The Federal Aviation Administration has also issued airspace-closure notices for the area from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. CT on Thursday and Friday – backup dates in case weather or technical issues cause SpaceX to scrub the Wednesday attempt. Likewise, Cameron County has given notice that a nearby road will be closed on those days, which is another prerequisite for launch.

SpaceX faces regulatory hurdles to get Starship to orbit

starhip sn8 nosecone spacex boca chica test flight explosion
The nosecone of the Starship prototype SN8 after it exploded during a test flight, December 10, 2020.

SpaceX’s two previous test flights – those of prototypes SN8 and SN9 – were considered successes despite their explosive endings. That’s because they demonstrated that Starship is capable of rocketing to suborbital heights and then controlling its fall.

However, those flights both resulted in FAA investigations, since the agency wanted to determine the cause of the explosions. It turned out that SN8 had fallen victim to low pressure in a propellant tank, which led the spaceship to fall too fast and slam into its landing pad. An additional issue with that attempt was that SpaceX hadn’t gotten the proper FAA approval, violating its launch license.

This triggered its own investigation, which then held up the SN9 flight. Once that prototype did fly, one of its three Raptor engines failed to relight as the rocket neared the ground.

All those investigations have been closed, an FAA spokesperson told CNN reporter Jackie Wattles. And the launch-license updates for the SN10 flight are approved, according to Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport.

Eventually, SpaceX will want to rocket a Starship into orbit to test its ability to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. That will require a different type of FAA license, but obtaining it means clearing many regulatory hurdles, including a thorough environmental assessment. (The environmental impact statement SpaceX previously completed for Boca Chica launches focused on the company’s smaller rockets, rather than its larger Starship-Super Heavy system.)

The company is waiting to start that environmental assessment, but depending on the findings, it’s possible SpaceX may need to conduct a new impact statement, which could take up to three years. Complicating matters is a leaked FAA draft document, obtained by Insider, which revealed that SpaceX plans to dig natural gas wells in Boca Chica to fuel Starships and on-site power plants. Such plans could affect SpaceX’s environmental review process.

This story has been updated. It was originally published on February 23, 2021. 

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SpaceX is about to reattempt a high-altitude flight of its Starship rocket. The last 2 prototypes blew up.

elon musk spacex starship explosion thumb 4x3
SpaceX’s Starship SN9 prototype failed to ignite one of its engines upon landing, so it slammed into the ground and exploded on February 2, 2021.

SpaceX is preparing to rocket its latest Starship prototype tens of thousands of feet into the air as early as this week.

The challenge is landing it back on the ground – that maneuver has ended in explosion both times the company previously attempted it. This time around, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that the prototype has a 60% chance of a successful landing.

The prototype represents the upper stage of a two-part system: Eventually, a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would heave the Starship spaceship toward orbit. Musk’s long-term vision is for the system to one day fly astronauts to the moon and power hypersonic travel on Earth. He has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships in order to carry people and cargo to Mars.

starship sn10 spadre
The SN10 prototype at SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.

But first, SpaceX has to figure out how to land the rocket, since that is critical to making the system reusable. Full reusability could help Starship slash the cost of reaching space 1,000-fold.

The newest prototype is called Starship serial No. 10, or SN10. It’s not yet clear precisely when SpaceX plans to attempt its test flight, but Musk said on Sunday that there’s a “good chance” of launch this week.

When that happens, SN10 will roar tens of thousands of feet above SpaceX’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. One by one, it should shut off its engines as it nears the peak of its flight, then flip sideways and plummet back to Earth in a controlled belly flop. As it nears the ground, the rocket should fire its engines once again to flip itself upright in time to slow its descent and touch down gently on the landing pad.

The last two times SpaceX conducted such a flight, the prototypes slammed into their landing pads and exploded.

SPadre.com captured the second incident from a camera on top of a building about 6 miles away:

Before this upcoming launch, SpaceX needs to conduct a static fire to test the rocket’s engines, but the company appears to have all the government clearance it needs for launch. That includes a launch-license approval, local road closures, and airspace closures.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued airspace-closure notices for the area from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. CT on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Cameron County, Texas, has also issued a Boca Chica road-closure notice from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT for Thursday. However, road and airspace closures can be canceled and rescheduled over and over until SpaceX is actually ready to launch.

We will update this post once SpaceX confirms the timing of its launch attempt.

SpaceX faces regulatory hurdles to get Starship to orbit

starhip sn8 nosecone spacex boca chica test flight explosion
The nosecone of the Starship prototype SN8 after it exploded during a test flight, December 10, 2020.

SpaceX’s two previous test flights – those of prototypes SN8 and SN9 – were considered successes despite their explosive endings. That’s because they demonstrated that Starship is capable of rocketing to suborbital heights and then controlling its fall.

However, those flights both resulted in FAA investigations, since the agency wanted to determine the cause of the explosions. It turned out that SN8 had fallen victim to low pressure in a propellant tank, which caused the spaceship to fall too fast and slam into its landing pad. An additional issue with that attempt was that SpaceX hadn’t gotten the proper FAA approval, violating its launch license.

This triggered its own investigation, which then held up the SN9 flight. Once that prototype did fly, one of its three Raptor engines failed to relight as the rocket neared the ground.

All those investigations have been closed, an FAA spokesperson told CNN reporter Jackie Wattles. And the launch-license updates for the SN10 flight are approved, according to Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport.

Eventually, SpaceX will want to rocket a Starship into orbit to test its ability to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. That will require a different type of FAA license, but obtaining it means clearing many regulatory hurdles, including a thorough environmental assessment. (The environmental impact statement SpaceX previously completed for Boca Chica launches focused on the company’s smaller rockets, rather than its much larger Starship-Super Heavy system.)

The company is now waiting to start that environmental assessment, but depending on the findings, it’s possible SpaceX may need to conduct a new impact statement, which could take up to three years. Complicating matters is a leaked FAA draft document, obtained by Insider, which revealed that SpaceX plans to dig natural gas wells in Boca Chica to fuel Starships and power plants. Such plans could also affect SpaceX’s environmental review process.

Read the original article on Business Insider

FAA orders inspections on Boeing 777 airplanes after one experienced engine failure and dropped debris over Colorado

United Airlines Boeing 777-222
United Airlines Boeing 777-222 takes off at Los Angeles international Airport on September 15, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

  • A Boeing 777 operated by United Airlines experienced engine failure Saturday, dropping debris over Colorado.
  • The FAA is now requiring inspections of all Boeing 777 jets with a particular engine model.
  • United also announced they would be grounding 24 active aircraft as they conduct a review.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration said Sunday he was requiring “immediate or stepped up inspections” of all Boeing 777 airplanes equipped with a particular engine model just a day after one experienced engine failure and dropped debris over Colorado.

“We reviewed all available safety data following yesterday’s incident. Based on the initial information, we concluded that the inspection interval should be stepped up for the hollow fan blades that are unique to this model of engine,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a statement.

The engine in question is a Pratt & Whitney PW4000 model, which the statement said are only used on Boeing 777 airplanes.

United Airlines, the operator of the plane that experienced engine failure, also announced it would temporarily ground all 24 of its active Boeing 777 planes with that engine model.

In a statement provided to Insider, United said it would work with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board “to determine any additional steps that are needed to ensure these aircraft meet our rigorous safety standards and can return to service.”

The statement said that United has 52 of these planes, 24 active and 28 in storage, and that the move to ground them should temporarily impact only a small number of customers.

United flight 328 from Denver to Honolulu, Hawaii was carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew members when it experienced engine failure Saturday shortly after taking off. The Boeing 777 aircraft began shedding debris, some of which landed in residential neighborhoods.

One photo shows a large piece of debris that narrowly missed someone’s home. A video taken by a passenger on the plane showed one engine on fire while the plane was in flight.

The plane returned to Denver International Airport and landed safely, with no injuries reported from anyone on board or as a result of the falling debris.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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A plane suffering engine failure dropped debris in people’s yards as it flew over Colorado, then landed safely

colorado denver debris
In this photo provided by the Broomfield Police Department on Twitter, debris is scattered in the front yard of a house at near 13th and Elmwood, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Broomfield, Colo.

  • A United Airlines flight dropped debris over Broomfield, Colorado, on Saturday.
  • The flight suffered engine failure after takeoff, and returned to the Denver airport safely.
  • No injuries on the ground or on the plane were reported.
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A plane suffering engine failure as it flew over Colorado dropped debris across several neighborhoods and narrowly missed a house on Saturday afternoon.

The Broomfield Police Department tweeted a number of images of large, jagged pieces of metal that fell from the sky. One photo showed a massive, circular piece from the plane’s engine atop a home’s doorstep.

 

Remarkably, no injuries or deaths were immediately reported. The police department said it issued a Code Red to about 1,400 residents in nearby neighborhoods asking them to look out for debris on their property and report it to authorities.

Police also warned residents not to touch or move any debris.

The plane, carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew, landed safely after returning to the Denver International Airport, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.

United Airlines Flight 328 had just taken off from the Denver airport, en route to Honolulu, Hawaii, when it experienced a right-engine failure after takeoff, the FAA said.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the incident.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Read the original article on Business Insider