Elon Musk Blasts ‘Broken’ FAA System As SpaceX Launches 88 Satellites

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX has now carried a total number of 900 objects into orbit, after SpaceX’s second “ride-share” mission launched 88 satellites into space Tuesday.

As part of the “Transporter-2” mission, a reused Falcon 9 rocket delivered the 88 satellites, “including the first five for a new Pentagon agency and dozens more for various companies, countries, and schools,” noted The Verge.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 3:31PM ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida, marking the company’s 20th launch this year and the eighth flight for the rocket’s first stage booster,” The Verge continued. “That booster returned to Earth about 10 minutes later at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1, a pad of concrete that hasn’t been used for rocket landings since December; Falcon 9 boosters usually land on sea-faring drone ships.”

“Meanwhile, the carpool of 88 satellites was pushed toward a sun-synchronous, pole-to-pole Earth orbit by Falcon 9’s second-stage booster. Thirty-six tiny satellites were mounted on a new payload adapter built by Spaceflight, a company that books space for small satellites on rockets, alongside other satellites arranged by SpaceX,” The Verge added.

SpaceX attempted to launch Transporter-2 earlier on Tuesday, but was forced to stop the countdown 11 seconds before liftoff when a private helicopter entered the airspace, despite being closed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“Unfortunately, launch is called off for today, as an aircraft entered the ‘keep out zone,’ which is unreasonably gigantic,” SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted. “There is simply no way that humanity can become a spacefaring civilization without major regulatory reform. The current regulatory system is broken.”

“We agree that there is a better way and stand ready to work with [SpaceX], [the FAA], and others to support the safe integration of all national airspace users,” replied Captain Joe DePete, the president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). “We detailed our national space integration strategy before Congress earlier this month,” he added.

DePete shared a press release in which the ALPA called for a “National Space Integration Strategy.”

“The FAA forecasts an increase in U.S. launch activities by as much as 100 percent by 2025,” said DePete, according to the release. “These predictions mean the FAA must build upon — and broaden — a pattern of collaboration by the aviation and aerospace sectors.” He then called for a national integration strategy to include:

  • Establishing launch planning and recovery standards,
  • Creating standards to make certain reentry of very large pieces of space debris occurs at a predefined location and time, and
  • Requiring notification of pilots, airlines, and controllers not directly involved in a space launch about risk level changes in the airspace.

“As we consider the promise — but also the challenges — of increased spaceflight, the aviation and aerospace sectors have a proven model to follow to ensure safety,” said DePete. “A similar data-driven, risk-based construct will help create a proactive safety culture for commercial spaceflight.”

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