FAA to oversee investigation of SpaceX's explosive 2nd Starship flight

I think the FAA is stretching its mission statement with this investigation. Calling a development test result a "mishap" seems to imply that if you don't meet all of your mission goals on every try of a development project, there is something wrong with the project implementation. Of course, that is B.S. The FAA's legal responsibility is to ensure public safety, both from accidents that involve the public commercially, such as commercial aircraft crashes, and development projects that could hurt the public with flying debris or chemical contamination from aircraft that do not involve humans as passengers or crew.

I have no issue with the FAA looking into a perceived problem on the first flight with the Flight Termination System apparently not working as designed, because that could threaten the public if the system fails to destroy the rocket when it heads out of the planned trajectory.

But, explosions of rockets under development are anticipated events, which are planned to occur in a safe manner when they happen. So, unless the FAA has some reason to think that something violated the safety plan, rather than just failing to fulfill the fondest hopes of the developers, the FAA should not create any delays in the development process. I doubt that SpaceX needs any "help" from the FAA to figure out what went wrong and engineer solutions.
The FAA definition of "mishap" from their website:

"Aircraft Flight Mishap.
b. A mishap occurrence associated with the operation of public or civil unmanned aircraft system that takes place between the time the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time the system is deactivated at the conclusion of its mission, and in which any person suffers a fatality or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage."

A "rapid unplanned disassembly" qualifies as "substantial damage".
Just as a side note, the Feds can make their own rules. There are at least two ways this can happen:
- Congress establishes a law providing for a penalty for, say, "pollution" but does not specify any details. The law will say "the details are at the discretion of the Secretary". All that is required is to gin up a couple of numbers, put them in the Federal Register, take public comment maybe. Depends on how the law was written.
- All laws need interpretation. There is a lot of weasel room in how you go about determining if someone broke the law. I have had many interactions with law enforcement agencies at all levels here in the US and abroad. Without exception I have been forthcoming and polite. Never had the slightest problem with how I was treated. And I got let off of some whoppers. It all depends on what level of respect you show. Musk does not show much thus he is constantly in trouble.
I think it is more like you said, "Musk does not show much [respect] thus he is constantly in trouble."

That is not "good law". Not respecting a bureaucracy is not illegal. Having worked in a couple, I have seen things I did not respect, and I have seen bias against people whom I respected.

So, again, just mincing words is not an adequate justification for government intrusion into a development process. Their mission is to protect public safety. Unless the FAA can show a threat to public safety beyond what it has already approved, it is out-of-bounds, logically and ethically. Yes, I realize that lawyers will argue "the letter of the law", with different lawyers hired to specifically to reach opposite conclusions about what the law actually means. That is why juries of common people are used to reach actual verdicts - the hope is that they will use common sense.
You are correct, "mincing words" is not justification for government intrusion into the developmental process. Your only option is to convince Congress to stop delegating specifics to Secretaries. If the law says they can use their discretion there is not really anything anyone can do about it.

You are correct, there is no law against being a jerk. But if you are a jerk, the Feds will use their Congressionally bestowed powers to screw you to the wall. "Tell it to the judge" is what they'll say. Or maybe, "Why don't you write a book about that. You'll have lots of time where you're going."
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