Before launching 53 Starlink satellites from Florida last August, it seems that SpaceX failed to submit required data to the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Now, the FAA has proposed a $175,000 fine to SpaceX for not sharing that data within at least seven days of its launch.
According to the FAA, the missing SpaceX data is critical because it’s used to “assess the probability of the launch vehicle colliding with one of the thousands of tracked objects orbiting the Earth.”
The FAA and SpaceX did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.
SpaceX has 30 days to respond to the FAA’s enforcement notice.
The FAA has previously clashed with SpaceX over seemingly reckless launches. In 2021, for example, SpaceX applied for an FAA waiver, asking for permission to “exceed the maximum public risk allowed by federal safety regulations” while launching a prototype spacecraft, The Washington Post reported. After the FAA denied the waiver, SpaceX moved forward with the launch anyway, resulting in an investigation and temporary suspension of operations at one of SpaceX’s launch sites.
Ultimately, SpaceX remedied the issues that the FAA identified, but it was unclear if the FAA considered fining SpaceX.
In 2021, Musk was publicly critical of the FAA, tweeting that the FAA’s space division had a “fundamentally broken regulatory structure” and alleging that delays in FAA inspections had delayed launch times.
While SpaceX seemed willing to break rules in 2021, United Launch Alliance’s CEO, Tory Bruno, that year urged the FAA to enforce regulations and licensing procedures so that all commercial space launch providers take the FAA’s safety precautions during launches seriously. Bruno said that if any company violates FAA safety rules and procedures, the FAA should strongly respond with “a deterrent set of penalties that will cause them to think twice.”
Now it seems the FAA is ready to take that advice, proposing civil penalties against SpaceX to ensure all launches meet the FAA’s deadlines to share launch collision analysis trajectory data.