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In a filing made with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) earlier this week, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) requested the body to extend its special temporary authority for testing the Starship launch vehicle platform beyond August. SpaceX's Starship is the company's next generation rocket that will replace the existing Falcon 9 lineup and carry payloads to a variety of destinations such as low Earth orbit (LEO), the Moon and Mars. SpaceX is developing Starship in its facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, and the company is currently on track to conduct a highly crucial orbital test launch of the 394 feet tall rocket almost built entirely out of stainless steel.
SpaceX Files Application With FCC For Starship Testing Starting From September 2022 To March 2023
The application is not the first time that SpaceX has asked the FCC's permission to broadcast and receive with certain radio frequencies to test both the upper and lower stage of Starship. The rocket is made of two parts, with its lower (or first) stage powered by 33 engines and responsible for generating the bulk of the thrust required to lift it to orbit. The lower (or second) stage is the Starship spacecraft which will carry both payloads and crew once it is certified and operational.
SpaceX's previous application was filed in January and the FCC was prompt to act on it as it granted it in less than three weeks. The brief narrative of the application read as:
This STA extends the information in previous grant 1847-EX-ST-2021 and is necessary to authorize Starship test vehicle communications from the launch pad at Boca Chica TX, and the experimental recovery operation following the Starship test vehicle demo launch. Trajectory data will be provided directly to NTIA, USAF, and NASA. Launch licensing authority is FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation.
The latest filing follows this narrative only replacing the filing number in the first sentence with the January filing. Supplementary documents confirm that SpaceX will test both the Super Heavy booster and Starship, with a 700 kilometer radius and a maximum altitude of 72 miles.
Additionally, SpaceX also lays down the timeline of the request from September start to March 2023 end, for a period of six months. The previous filing is still active, and the company can still test Starship in August, but recent mishaps with the booster might result in a September test.
The booster gave onlookers a major scare just last week when a small but crucial test resulted in an accidental fireball lighting up the base of the rocket. The cause of the accident was a fuel rich air mixture according to SpaceX chief Mr. Elon Musk, and it took place as the company started testing its rocket engines' fuel and propellant pumps. These pumps have to start at predetermined time levels, and their timing is crucial for the rocket's smooth performance.
Footage from Texas has confirmed that SpaceX has transported the booster back to its inspection facilities, and the company is busy removing the engines for inspection. Initial footage of some of the engines shows little to no sign of damage, a positive development that could result in the rocket making its way back to the launch pad within weeks.
SpaceX also performed the same pump test for its Starship upper stage spacecraft after the booster accident, and this test saw massive clouds of vapor being vented into the environment - a clear signal of the test performing smoothly and without fault. This entails that the prior accident was not due to a design fault, and once the booster is back on the pad, SpaceX might just conduct a crucial static fire test to kick off the orbital test campaign