I had heard that the reason Starship launch was being delayed was because they were doing an environmental impact assessment. During the April 17 NASASpaceflight coverage , it was stated that this was because of methane.

Now, Starship has exploded, releasing massive amounts of methane. I don't know how this launch license thing works. Do they have some quota, and if so, have they exceeded it because of this?

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    $\begingroup$ Have you read the launch license? It's not that long. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2023 at 15:22
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    $\begingroup$ the file isn't corrupted; it loads just fine. $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Apr 20, 2023 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ the short answer is going to be "no." The FAA understands that rocket launches carry a risk of destruction. For them not to issue an additional license for the next one (or extend the existing one per 4.b.iv) they'd have to be convinced that SpaceX was operating unsafely and couldn't be trusted to continue the launch test campaign. That's extremely unlikely. $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Apr 20, 2023 at 16:01
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    $\begingroup$ The methane burned in the explosion. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Apr 20, 2023 at 17:26
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    $\begingroup$ @Abdullah: We can be pretty sure that almost all of the methane burned, simply because that's what methane does when exposed to oxygen and fire. And there was a lot of those too. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2023 at 19:47

2 Answers 2


The license was only valid for a single launch. But it is possible that it could be amended.

To answer your question directly, no. Flight abort or RUD is not one of the failures explicitly mentioned in the Launch License :

  • Failure to follow the specified pre-flight ground operations and flight operations outlined in Order A-1.
  • Failure to comply with the environmental mitigations listed in the Conditions and Mitigation section of the Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision, as stated in Order A-1.
  • Failure to have an FAA Safety Inspector present at SpaceX’s Boca Chica Launch Complex for flight operations, as required by Order A-1.
  • Failure to confirm maritime warnings have been issued no later than 24 hours prior to flight, as required by Order A-1.
  • Failure to provide required reports and information within the specified timeframes, as stated in Order A-1.
  • Failure to maintain the required liability insurance policy or policies, as specified in Order B-1.
  • Any incidents, accidents, or anomalies during the pre-flight ground operations or flight operations that pose a risk to public health and safety or the safety of property.
  • $\begingroup$ It's a stand-up comedy bit that, on the face of it that they care more about "environmental mitigations" than, you know, shit blowing up :) $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Apr 22, 2023 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Fattie If they denied every launch license where the rocket might explode, there wouldn't be many left. The mitigations are in place so that when things do explode, they do so as safely and responsibly as possible. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Apr 22, 2023 at 17:41

From reading the license, it is already invalid:

For the first flight only, unless this license is modified to remove this term.

Hence it is a single launch license, and it has been used already. However if safety, health and property of general public were not in danger, something exploding does not look like a big deal. A number of Starships crashed in the tests, here just the rocket was bigger.

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    $\begingroup$ Indeed. I would expect that after a short investigation, the FAA issues an order which removes this sentence or modifies it to say "the first two flights only" or something like this. The same thing happened with the mid-altitude tests. SpaceX launched SN8 without a license, the FAA was understandably pissed and only issued single-launch licenses with the requirement that an FAA officer must be present for SN9 and SN10. If I remember correctly, they then issued a block license for SN11 and following. It's just that SpaceX didn't fly SN12–14 and SN15 was a new design so needed a new license. $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2023 at 17:32

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