SpaceX threatened with $175,000 fine for Starlink crash risk paperwork blunder

Looks like Musketeers jumped the gun, launched mission too early

Video SpaceX may be fined $175,000 by America's Federal Aviation Administration for failing to hand over collision risk documents before it flew a group of Starlink satellites into space last year.

The administration claimed SpaceX did not submit "launch collision analysis trajectory data'' prior to the launch of the Starlink Group 4-27 mission on August 19, 2022.

"SpaceX was required to submit the data to the agency at least seven days prior to an attempted launch," it said in a statement on Friday. The launch collision analysis trajectory data is crucial for the FAA to assess the likelihood of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket potentially crashing into "one of the thousands of tracked objects" orbiting around the Earth.

An enforcement letter addressed to SpaceX said the maximum civil penalty for flouting its rules is $262,666, according to CNBC. Officials at the administration, however, proposed a lower fine after reviewing the case in more detail.

SpaceX has been launching its broadband-beaming Starlink birds at an increasing rate. The Starlink Group 4-27 mission sent 53 satellites into space, and was the 56th mission since 2019. The flight took off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, and marked the ninth time that that particular Falcon 9 first stage booster was launched, the company said

The latest civil penalty proposal isn't the first time SpaceX has defied the FAA's rules and regulations. In 2020, the company asked the administration for a waiver to forgo some of the public safety rules to fly its Starship SN8 heavy-lift launch vehicle. The FAA declined to issue the waiver, but SpaceX decided to go ahead with the flight anyway.

The SN8 flight of a rocket that - it's hoped/hyped - will eventually send a future crew of astronauts to Mars, was an attempt to test the craft's abilities. The reusable rocket managed to reach 41,000 feet before landing and then erupting into flames as it hit the ground. Unfortunately, the next test of the Starship rocket in the SN9 flight exploded in the air before it could flip itself the right way up to land. You can see the whole thing below.

Youtube Video

SpaceX has 30 days to respond to the agency's latest enforcement letter. The Register has asked the company for comment. ®

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