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The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed to fine SpaceX $175,000 for failing to provide information predicting the likelihood of a collision in space ahead of an August rocket launch.
The FAA said at short notice that SpaceX is required to submit the data to the agency at least seven days prior to the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket. The data “will be used to estimate the likelihood that the launch vehicle will collide with one of the thousands of tracked objects orbiting the Earth.”
The action follows tensions between the company and the regulator. In 2021, the FAA said in a statement that SpaceX launched a prototype of its Starship rocket in violation of its launch license. Prior to that test flight in December, SpaceX had requested an exemption that would have allowed it “to exceed the maximum public risk allowed by federal safety regulations,” the FAA said.
After that waiver was denied, SpaceX proceeded with the launch anyway, the FAA said.
Musk criticized the agency at the time, saying, “Unlike their aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA’s space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure,” he said wrote on Twitter in 2021. “Your rules are for a handful of expendable launches per year from some government entities. Under these rules, humanity will never reach Mars.”
In response, the FAA said it “will not compromise its responsibility to protect public safety.” We will not approve the change until we are satisfied that SpaceX has taken the necessary steps to comply with regulatory requirements.”
Those requirements were met after just a few months, and the FAA granted SpaceX additional launch licenses for its Starship program. The company is now awaiting a license for its first attempt to launch Starship into orbit. The company hopes the launch could happen as early as next month.
SpaceX launched its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket 61 times last year, an unprecedented cadence as it moved rapidly to launch its Starlink satellite constellation into orbit. For one of those launches, SpaceX did not submit collision probability data, the FAA said.
SpaceX has 30 days to respond to the FAA.
A SpaceX spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.