FAA investigating SpaceX launch license violations as Musk rages on

Originally published at: FAA investigating SpaceX launch license violations as Musk rages on | Boing Boing


Presumably Musk thinks the FAA’s aircraft division is “fine” because it let Boeing get away with essentially self-certifying the 737-MAX.


Oh shut up Musk. Tired of his ranting.


I guess it depends on what you think the point of a regulatory body is.


Rockets that blow up also won’t get humanity to Mars.


I think the evidence here is that there is a missmatch between the types of activities the regulator usually handles and the program being pursued by SpaceX in Texas. Not to say that the safety of the public shouldn’t be the primary concern of the FAA but that they are not prepared from a rulemaking standpoint to effectively regulate this type of venture.

The current information is that the violation here was not the fiery end of the test (misleading implication) but an engine swap that occurred just prior to the test. If SpaceX has four engines and decides that they want to fly with 1, 3 and 4 instead of 1, 2 and 3 shouldn’t that be something the regulator handles gracefully?


Yes. They should gracefully tell them to fucking stop if they aren’t approved for it.

And no, self certification because he knows more than everybody is not acceptable.


It’s all about being disruptive, really.


Depends if we want whole people to get to Mars or in more of a kit-form.


If I am a regulatory agency that determines if you are able to compile code for a computer and I make a rule that says that you have to tell me which libraries you plan to use and you determine that you need to change one out before compiling then you are out of compliance. Now if you are in an operational environment then this makes a lot of sense because this change could have a lot of unintended consequences and requires examination. If you are in development mode then it makes no sense at all and just serves to slow things down for little benefit.

This is what I mean by a mismatch between the regulatory agency’s rulemaking and the regulated activity. Just because the rules are what they are doesn’t mean they are the right rules to be applied in a given circumstance.


I understand the task is to get one’s ass to Mars.
Never said anything about the rest.


Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars."

can’t we just send him to mars now?


The fact is, plenty of developments in modern aeronautics and spacefaring and such came about through testing that was done, no pun intended, off the radar of the public, regulators, or really anybody. The history of the A-12 Oxcart and SR-71 Blackbird were fraught with disasters and near-disasters, as one example of many. My point is, flying fast things around has involved plenty of risk-taking over the years. We obviously now know that the Space Shuttle had fundamental flaws.

However, none of this excuses Musk for violating the regulations/rules/the law. His antics are increasingly tiresome, even if I have a certain modicum of respect for some of what his companies have accomplished over the years. And he may have points about the need to rethink FAA regulations around private space ventures (I have no idea, but it’s certainly plausible). But you do what grownups do and hire lobbyists, you don’t just break the rules that you’re currently operating under. Musk just can’t get out of his own damn way…


In the abstract, I would agree with you. In concrete terms, rockets are big, heavy, and go up really high. If the rocket blows up while in the sky, falling debris and toxic chemicals could cause a world of hurt for any poor schlub unlucky enough to be along the flight path.

There are whole sections of Kazakhstan made uninhabitable from the launches conducted out of Baikonur.


I’m a long time pilot, and I’ll just mention that the FAA as a regulatory agency issues “special airworthiness certificates” for experimental non-approved flight hardware (whether rockets or aircraft) which are always accompanied by written “operating limitations” which specify exactly the nature of the flights permitted, where they may take place, and what changes and modifications to the hardware are permitted before the airworthiness certificate must be reissued. How and why the engine was changed, and whether it was done consistent with the certificate limitations is the real issue. Mere mortal humans like myself could be fined thousands of dollars and have their ratings pulled for knowingly flying an aircraft in violation of the airworthiness certificate and/or limitations, no matter how small the risk. Musk clearly thinks rules are for little people.


that was my take too. there are good reasons that you want to regulate this stuff.

if spacex wanted to be able to swap engines out at random, that should have been part of their regulatory approval in the first place. and if the regulations need changing to allow things like that, then they need to work with the faa.

his complaint isn’t – “we’re working with the faa and updating regulations is taking too long.” it’s “they’re not letting us do whatever the hell we want.” there’s a big difference between those two things.

god forbid musk ever does start a mars colony and tries to dictate all the rules.


Even if we assume that his gripes about never making it to Mars are true, it wouldn’t be a great reason to listen to him. There is negligible benefit to making it to Mars on any regulatory timescale. There is a large cost to having a tank load of rocket fuel dumped on a house.


god forbid musk ever does start a mars colony and tries to dictate all the rules.

No thank you. I already played that game.


For which the Martians are eternally grateful, I’m sure.


Rules that are enforced on individuals and not on corporations is a big problem in society in general I would agree. Thanks for elaborating on some of the intricacies of the FAA regulatory process. We are all looking in from the outside and I for one am truly glad that there is an agency that ensures the public safety (especially with how near these tests are to people and their property).