SpaceX went through with launching a prototype of its Starship reusable spacecraft last December despite being warned at least twice by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that such step would violate the company’s launch license, The Verge outlet of tech news reported, citing confidential documents and letters.
The FAA warned SpaceX 15 minutes before the takeoff that the rocket was not cleared for launch over safety risk, as the weather data provided by Elon Musk’s company was not sufficient, according to the documents cited.
“Although the report states that all SpaceX parties believed that such risk was sufficiently low to comply with regulatory criteria, SpaceX used analytical methods that appeared to be hastily developed to meet a launch window,” the chief of FAA space division, Wayne Monteith, told SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell in a letter cited in the report.
The regulator thought that SpaceX chose to prioritize speed over safety during the December launch, but it did not impose sanctions on Musk’s company as it was unable to establish if the breach was intentional, according to the documents cited.
SpaceX refused to comment on the matter, the outlet said, noting that it remains unclear what role, if any, Musk himself played in making the decision to launch the vehicle. While launch violations are reportedly rare in the space industry, SpaceX occupies “a particularly dominant position,” as it assists NASA in sending crewed missions to the International Space Station and the Moon.