The first orbital flight of SpaceX’s Starship rocket remains suspended for authorization from the US Federal Aciation Administration (FAA). And the agency just announced this week that it needed more time to conduct its environmental investigation around the Boca Chica site in Texas, due to nearly 20,000 public comments from citizens.
Many of these comments simply defend SpaceX’s approach, but there are also many critics of the company. Many respondents point, among other things, to the direct, indirect and cumulative impact of the location of the SpaceX launch site in the Boca Chica area, which before SpaceX’s arrival was relatively untouched by human activities.
FAA needs two more months to rule on Starship launch in Boca Chica
The area is said to be the preferred habitat of dozens of endangered animal species. In the event of a negative review, SpaceX could be forced to completely revise its activities on the site, which could cause new delays and problems for the company. “SpaceX, under FAA supervision, is currently drafting responses to more than 18,000 public comments […]”explains the FAA.
SpaceX is preparing its final report which will have to be validated by the agency. The FAA says it is conducting regulatory consultations under various transportation and environmental laws. The FAA is also continuing its collaboration with the Texas Historical Commission (THC) and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) as again required by law.
Initially the FAA was to communicate its final decision on the Boca Chica launch site on December 31, 2021. But given the number of comments and its regulatory obligations, the FAA finally announced that it would need an additional two months to pronounce. The precious sesame that SpaceX needs to launch Starship from the Boca Chica site cannot be delivered before February 28, 2022.
We note in passing that SpaceX seems to anticipate both a positive and a negative decision. History, one imagines, not to be caught off guard, SpaceX is building a launch pad for Starship in parallel on the Cape Canaveral site. Two ex-oil platforms called Phobos and Deimos are also being converted into floating launch pads.