Earlier this month, SpaceX finally conducted the first test flight of its Starship spacecraft after a number of delays and a canceled launch attempt.
The good news is that the vehicle got off the ground successfully and completed its launch. The bad news; well, it looks like federal agencies will be dealing with the after-effects of the explosive fallout of the mission for quite some time.
The launch led to a 3.5-acre fire on state park land. The fire was timely extinguished but the debris from the rocket which had to blow up in the sky for safety reasons as stated by SpaceX, was found all across hundreds of acres of land.
“Although no debris was documented on refuge fee-owned lands, staff documented approximately 385 acres of debris on SpaceX’s facility and at Boca Chica State Park,” the Texas arm of the US Fish and Wildlife Service told Bloomberg.
The agency is working with the Federal Aviation Administration on a site assessment and post-launch recommendations while ensuring compliance with the Endangered Species Act. FAA said that it carried out a mishap investigation soon after the launch and the explosion.
Starship has been grounded for now and its return to flight depends on the agency “determining that any system, process or procedure related to the mishap does not affect public safety.”
SpaceX is now required to remove debris from sensitive habitats, carry out a survey of wildlife and vegetation and send reports to several federal agencies.
“The FAA will ensure SpaceX complies with all required mitigations,” the agency told Bloomberg.
The space launch vehicle destroyed its launch pad, sending chunks of debris into the air. Footage showed the shrapnel landing on a nearby beach and even hitting a van hundreds of yards from the launch site. Fortunately, no one was hurt, according to the FAA.
Hence, it might be quite some time before Starship is launched again even if they manage to address and resolve all the concerns of the federal agencies.