NASA Denies SpaceX Starship Launches At Cape Canaveral

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Elon Musk’s casual, even celebratory attitude toward the spectacular explosions that destroyed earlier tests of his Starship launch system may have come back to bite him. NASA says it won’t allow launches of the massive rocket from SpaceX’s pad at Cape Canaveral because it could endanger launches to the International Space Station. The pad in question is next to Pad 39A, which is the only facility approved to launch crewed missions by SpaceX to the ISS.  SpaceX has been working frenetically on the Cape facility as a backup to its Boca Chica, Texas, headquarters because permit delays at the Texas site have stalled the program. But NASA is having none of it. ”We all recognize that if you had an early failure like we did on one of the early SpaceX flights, it would be pretty devastating to 39A,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s space operations chief, told Reuters. SpaceX has offered to make Pad 39A more explosion proof but so far NASA isn’t budging.

SpaceX has blown up three Starship rockets and has always maintained that’s part of its test philosophy. Musk has had dismissive and even flippant social media reactions to the failures, but it would appear the fault in the logic is that it only works if there is nothing to wreck around it. SpaceX was rushing the second Cape pad construction because a regulatory review at the Texas site has been dragging on. The FAA approved the company’s environmental assessment earlier this week but there are 75 conditions attached.

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59 COMMENTS

  1. So everything is moving along well. Then Mr Musk expressed his concerns about the current administration and the party it represents, and now there “problems”. The EPA and NASA, suddenly realize that there risks. Hum…. no politics involved here…..

  2. …And another conspiracy theorist left over from January 6 is heard from.
    So Chuck, those three mini-nuke-sized blasts at Boca Chica never happened and the Texas photo Russ provided is actually a refinery fire?
    And pad 39A is NOT a stone’s throw ( or within a crater radius) from where SpaceX is modding one to launch Starship from rather than comply with enviro constraints and ameliorate neighbor concerns at BC?
    Facts and history are such a nuisance sometimes …but we kinda rely on them to anticipate future aviation safety hazards.

    • Okay Wise Ass, none of these issues are new to the industry except for Musk’s more conservative political views. The current admin is so vindictive and and politically petty that it regularly uses the FBI for retribution including going after Musk. Large explosions at NASA launch sites are not new and not just old history, and the only alternative to Musk’s SpaceX LP 39A used to be Russia, who have famously now told the US and the rest of the world to piss off regarding anything to do with the ISS including using their launching facilities. Yet the Biden admin is so politically oriented they see and do essentially everything through their myopic progressive lenses. If NASA’s newly expressed concerns were based as they report, we should have heard about them months or years ago. Why just now? Most of us know the answer.

    • Socialism: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

      Wise O, dismissing factual current events as conspiracies rather than understanding a sociopolitical movement that is obsessed with controlling every aspect of your life, up to and including future technologies is exactly what defines “useful idiot” Comrade Lenin would be very proud of you.

  3. OK, so they ran out of excuses to prevent the Boca Chica site from operating but that leaves Spacex with two options for launch sites. We can’t have that, I mean how do you squeeze this guy everywhere? No, let’s shut down his other option now to keep control of him.
    So, I guess he’ll have to activate the oil platform option. Harder to regulate that into submission. I mean, he could put it anywhere. So, we better start thinking of ways to prevent that too.

  4. That explains why the SLS/Artemis spends all of its time crawling back and forth to the launchpad. Heavens no, don’t let Starship launch here, they might actually fly a rocket instead of displaying the world’s most expensive paperweight.

  5. Let me see now,,,, Musk had intentions of purchasing Twitter and the current administration set up a “Disinformation Czar” to determine what the truth is. The Twitter deal hit some obstacles and suddenly the the Disinformation Czar isn’t needed.
    Spacex made strides in space launches but soon after Musk made comments questioning the stumbling, rambling president’s competency, NASA has decided the Spacex launches are too risky. Hey, Mr. Musk,, maybe you should follow the example of many industries and move operations out of the country.
    What next? Maybe the Tesla’s will suddenly become unsafe for operations on public roadways. I wonder if the NTSB will be the next weapon fired at the MUSK-e-teer.

    • I’m sure Musk’s cavalier attitude toward “RUDs” has nothing at all to do with his apparent disregard to safety.

      I respect Tesla and SpaceX for accomplishing what everyone else said was impossible to do, and it’s great that he’s used his money to start those companies, but as a business leader he’s too much of a wild card.

  6. What does NASA have against successful African-Americans? Or is this the childish reaction of the Biden administration to Musk’s endorsement of Ron DeSantis as the next Real President? Musk ought to simply buy an island closer to the equator and run his own launch facility. He’d corner the market on commercial space launches and thumb his nose at bureaucrats who get in the way of industry.

  7. WRONG!

    Kennedy Space Center is NOT ON Cape Canaveral but is across the Banana River to the West.

    Cape Canaveral Space Force Station is a Space Force installation and NASA has no control over it except for a few specific facilities. The Eastern Range is run by the Space Force and NASA cannot deny access by anyone to the range.

    Originally, Launch Complexes 39C and 39D were planned to the NW of LC39A and 39B but where never built. They two new complexes probably will not ever be built, considering the severe environmental restrictions.

    On Cape Canaveral, SLC-37, built for Saturn I and later used for Delta IV will be available once the Delta IV program ends, as it will because it is not cost competitive with Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. Aside from that, SLC-34 is relatively close to SLC-37, is not in use, and is available as well.

  8. The government was By the People, for the People, and of the People, NOW it by the LIbtards, for the Libtards, and of the Libtards. There is an active civil war in this country right now without a single shot being fired. The left has weaponized the government for their agenda and NASA is a part of that. I home Musk is super successful with his space program.

  9. Given free reign, Musk will likely be the only one to pull off a Mars mission. The failures don’t bother me one bit. The Earth is populated with 8,000,000,000 people and only one of them is trying. So what if he fails a few times?

    Oh, and by the way, those starship explosions were not “mini nukes”, there was very little fuel and nearby structures were not damaged. The rocket explosions are USUALLY far less violent than equivalent amount of explosives, as fuel and oxidizer are not pre-mixed, and the initial fireball in the area where they do mix quite efficiently blows the remainders of both apart, preventing further mixing and more massive explosion.

  10. Please, if you feel the need to make a comment, try to keep politics and conspiracy theories out of it.

    And refrain from saying something like “libtards”, because that adds nothing to the discussion.

    And it might even be worth consider that you might not know the whole story.

    I read the article, and thought I’d read the comments to get a broader perspective. All I’ve been able to take away from the comments is that it’s a government conspiracy by the conniving libtards and the gov’t is no longer by the people and the human race is dumbed-down to the extent of being doomed.

    • I have no idea if this offends you but don’t you find it odd that the reporting on AvWeb is stating that NASA is having “none of it” when you go to the Reuters article there is Ms Lueders stating that “Space X is working with us on those things”. So, I suspect that the real trigger for the kind of sentiment you wish were not being used by the various commenters is AvWeb’s need to provide a sensational headline that results in a click on the article and an emotional reaction to the piece. Live by the sword and die sword and all

      • Why would this offend me? I was kind of wondering the same thing.

        But I think it is incumbent on “We the People” to take it upon ourselves to not jump to conclusions nor blithely believe everything we hear, and to be ready to try to understand that there might be deeper issues than can be conveyed in a single two paragraph article.

        Maybe that guy in “Office Space” was onto something when he designed the “Jump to Conclusions” mat.

  11. I have to agree that the use of the word “Libtards” was over-the-top.

    Would the use of words like “unneccessarily complicated”–convoluted, difficult to understand, vindictive, “doxxing”, “strangulation by regulation”, “not invented here”, byzantine, perplexing, obscure, complicated, inscrutable, tangled, tortuous, muddled, vindictive, “malicious ill will and a desire to hurt (motivated by spite)”, and that grand-daddy of all terms for government “Paralysis by Analysis” make those who use government to stifle progress FEEL BETTER?

    The fact is–Musk uses his OWN MONEY instead of OUR MONEY to succeed where government fails–and GOVERNMENT is angry at him for doing so. Though SpaceEx has achieved where government failed–government seems determined to thwart further progress.

    And those who SUPPORT ineffective and vindictive big government (hint–they are NOT conservatives) are doing everything they can to NOT allow him to succeed. Is it any wonder why things are the way they are today?

    Because this is an aviation forum–perhaps an aviation analogy can be made: The year–1903–and the sentiment in Washington might have been “We have to stop those dangerous Wright Brothers from using an unsafe and unlicensed aerial vehicle on public seashores at Kitty Hawk–after all, they may endanger sea turtles and sea birds! How can they expect to succeed, when the greatest minds in government (Samuel Langley of Smithsonian) have failed?”

    Same thing with Musk–raise your head too high, and government will notice you and slap you down–label you “dangerous”–and make sure you don’t succeed where they failed.

    And government supporters wonder why big government is the subject of millions of jokes about it!

    • Might happen if Musk relents, kisses enough political butts, gives enough money to the right politicians, and/or the US gets rid of the most corrupt administration and enough ensconced liberal bureaucrats to change both the culture and direction of the country.

      • Or maybe this is part of the give and take that is required to ensure that NASA’s needs are met while also giving Musk what he needs.

        And there you go again with wanting to make this about politics. So you feel certain that if we could magically change all the liberal bureaucrats into conservative bureaucrats who allowed Elon to do as he wished that there would be no problems?

  12. Many comments herein are not very relevant – NASA is addressing a particular risk that was intensified by Russia’s war on Ukraine: damage to US’ means of transporting astronauts to the space station.

    SpaceX should want to respect that concern, as realizing it would be bad for Space X in at least two ways.

    Not the first time ‘The Mouth 2’ has been arguing with FAA, who may well be bureaucratic in this bunfight.

  13. I hope that NASA’s caution is just that: professional and warranted caution in the face of new technology. I do find politics (from both sides) interfering in what should boil down to sound science and reasonable safety. Surely it’s not lost on NASA that SpaceX is their only avenue currently for getting astronauts to space. Not to mention their best bet for launching satellites.

    Consider what happened just the other day with ASTRAS launch from cape Canaveral. I’ve personally seen an Astra rocket explode here in alaska, and they continue to get contracts despite a dismal success record. Starship definitely does need more than one launch point, wherever it might be.

  14. We’ve been using agile development and “test-first” in software development for many years now. As a software developer, I recognized early on that SpaceX has adapted that approach to building space hardware: Construct and test each component until the design is confirmed. The earlier Starships were test articles, built cheaply and containing only what was needed for the particular test, like the “belly flop” maneuver, the gimballing of the Raptor engines, or seeing if they have figured out the timing needed for maneuvers, as they did for landing the Falcon 9 booster. The hardware is highly instrumented; they are after the telemetry – the hardware is merely the means to the end and can be discarded if it doesn’t blow up. Costs are front-end loaded with this approach, but the overall costs are lower.

    Elon Musk has introduced a new paradigm to space flight; he is focused on space transportation and the mass production of the necessary hardware. From the beginning, NASA’s missions were like Magellan’s and the other early explorers; Musk’s vision corresponds to the current traffic of ocean-going ships. Boca Chica is the location to expect RUDs; Starships launched from the Cape will be the “production” versions. People who judge SpaceX by the old NASA standards will be hopelessly confused. There is only one space transportation company, and their signature is a successful launch every three weeks or so, and returning 116 flight-proven boosters to successful landings. If any rocket is going to explode at the Cape it’s more likely to be the multi-billion dollar, disposable, obsolete SLS.

  15. Just finished watching SpaceX’s 49th StarLink launch, in which this particular booster returned for a successful landing for the 13th time. SpaceX has two more launches scheduled for this weekend – not as busy as the Greyhound bus terminal but closing in.

    The Artemis mission was planned around the limitations of SLS and the Orion capsule, hence the “Lunar Gateway”. In defense of the planners, I think Starship caught most people by surprise. If the missions dropped Orion and were flown exclusively by Starship, the Lunar Gateway would be superfluous; however an LEO Gateway might make sense. And imagine the exploration missions to the outer planets NASA could perform with the 100 tons of payload available with Starship. Casey Handmer, who has worked for JPL, has a blog where he opines about space and his other interests. Here are two links that explore the implications of Starship:

    https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2021/11/17/science-upside-for-starship/

    https://caseyhandmer.wordpress.com/2021/10/28/starship-is-still-not-understood/

  16. Somewhat expected these days that the conspiracy theory consuming, “everything is political or agenda driven” crowd shows up on articles like this and there needs to be a push back on that nonsense using stuff like science, facts and, if those aren’t sufficient, mockery.

    First, facts. NASA needs SpaceX and SpaceX needs NASA. There are billions of dollars in contracts between the two and more to come. NASA also has an obligation to the public and other stakeholders who are impacted by successful launches and very dramatically by fails.

    The launchpads in proximity are an issue in Florida even as Kennedy and neighboring Space Force facilities have already gone down the environmental path in ways Texas has not.

    SoaceX is NOT being picked on due to politics. They have a new and VFL (very f-ing large) bomb that either explodes all at once or in a more controlled fashion. The breakthroughs in design and performance also come with a VFL risk factor given the rule of “nothing comes for free” in physics. The explosive potential of a VFL amount of liquid methane which has a much higher energy density than liquid hydrogen… that transcends whatever imagined political nonsense one might blame these delays on.

    Giant tanks of liquid methane and liquid O2 next to similarly sized tanks of H+O actually present a different scale of danger.

    That’s it. Now stick to science and let the science and safety experts hash everything out so we can applaud a successful launch as soon as possible.

  17. Laughable to see idiots like Chuck politicizing facts and prevention procedures to politics blaming Democrats ( those people who eat and drink chieldren’s blood 😂😂🤣🤣🤣🤣) for everything. Never imagine too many ignorants believing in QAnon. And other illogical Conspiracy Theory, poor bustards at the end we should feel sorry 4 these idiots 😈😈😈
    I guess Putin Won 😈😈😈

  18. I find the reactions to the post to be understandable, but based on a post that seems to be wrong in the high order bit.

    NASA has *not* according to the article denied launches, and Kathy Leuders is *not* having none of it. According to the Reuters article which itself could be expected to show some anti-spaceX bias, they are “Working together to work out how to do this”. Personally I think that just makes sense since an explosion of a star ship stack on the pad would be quite an event.

    That they are in fact approaching these issues seems to suggest NASAs confidence that Starship is a reality at this point that needs to be worked into their system.

    Perhaps Russ Niles should revise the post? It really is misleading.