SpaceX’s Exploding SN8 Rocket Test Reportedly Violated Federal Aviation Administration Launch Licence

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 01 Feb 2021 10:42
SpaceX's Exploding SN8 Rocket Test Reportedly Violated Federal Aviation Administration Launch LicencePA Images

Space X’s rocket test in December 2020 reportedly violated its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launch licence.

The SN8 Starship was launched in the hope of bringing us closer to travelling to Mars, but exploded on its way down to Earth.


Despite the explosion – which was caused by a high velocity touchdown – the test flight was dubbed a success as the rocket hit SpaceX’s highest altitude yet.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted at the time, ‘Mars, here we come!!!’, branding the operation as ‘the gateway to Mars’.

But while SpaceX saw it as a success, the FAA – which oversees ground safety and issues licenses for private launches – began an investigation into the launch and found that the company had violated part of its launch licence.


The investigation, which was opened last week, concluded that the regulations had been breached, although it is currently unclear what the breach was.

In the wake of the investigation, Musk branded the FFA as ‘a fundamentally broken regulatory structure’.

The multi-billionaire tweeted on Thursday, January 28:

Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure. Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.

PA Images

Despite Musk’s comments, the FFA have said it will continue to work with SpaceX.

In a statement to The Verge issued on Friday, January 29, the FAA said:

The FAA will continue to work with SpaceX to evaluate additional information provided by the company as part of its application to modify its launch license. While we recognize the importance of moving quickly to foster growth and innovation in commercial space, the FAA will not compromise its responsibility to protect public safety.

We will approve the modification only after we are satisfied that SpaceX has taken the necessary steps to comply with regulatory requirements.


SpaceX’s SN9 Starship launch, which was supposed to happen last week, was held up by the FAA.

According to The Verge, the rocket was ‘loaded with fuel and ready to fly’ but, after SpaceX made several changes to its license application, officials were still reviewing it at the time Musk’s company wanted to run the test flight.

The supposed licence breach further enhances the ongoing tensions between SpaceX, Musk and the FAA. To date, SpaceX has attempted to sue the administration twice – once in 2014, and again in 2018.


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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: News, Elon Musk, SpaceX, US News


The Verge and 1 other
  1. The Verge

    Elon Musk’s SpaceX violated its launch license in explosive Starship test, triggering an FAA probe

  2. Mashable

    Elon Musk's explosive SpaceX rocket test reportedly violated its FAA license