The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued at least two warnings to SpaceX during the company’s testing of its reusable Starship system in Texas last year, US news website The Verge reported, citing “exclusively obtained” documents.
The documents, which apparently include confidential letters between the FAA and SpaceX chiefs, among other things, suggest that the company “prioritized speed over safety,” according to The Verge. Its “actions show a concerning lack of operational control and process discipline that is inconsistent with a strong safety culture,” a letter from the FAA space division head, Wayne Monteith, to SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell reportedly states.
In December 2020, the Starship prototype serial number 8 (SN8) took off from private grounds belonging to SpaceX in Boca Chica, Texas. While the high-altitude suborbital test flight launched successfully, the vehicle disassembled and crashed while attempting to land. Elon Musk then tweeted that his company “got all the data we needed” from the test, adding, “Mars, here we come!”
However, according to the latest report, events apparently violating the company’s launch license, and potentially endangering the public, occurred minutes before takeoff, as the SN8 wasn’t cleared for launch by the FAA due to the weather conditions.