SpaceX released its plans for the Starbase facility at Boca Chica Beach, Texas, in a 152-page draft document submitted to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The document is a Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA), that evaluates the potential impacts of SpaceX operations at the beach village. It provides an elaborate overview of the company’s Starship development plans and how spaceflight activities may affect the region. The FAA is accepting public comments about SpaceX’s proposed activities at Boca Chica, information linked below.
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The PEA document revealed how many Starship launches SpaceX plans to conduct at the Starbase launch site in South Texas. “During the program’s development, SpaceX is proposing to conduct up to 20 Starship suborbital launches annually,” the company wrote, “As the program progresses, SpaceX is proposing to conduct up to five Starship suborbital launches annually. Each launch would include a landing.” These suborbital tests would enable the company to further develop the spacecraft before launching crewed flights.
“SpaceX is proposing to conduct up to five Starship/Super Heavy orbital launches annually. Starship/Super Heavy missions would include Lunar and Mars missions, satellite payload missions, and the possibility of future human flight to the moon and Mars,” the document states. These orbital flights will be supported by a gigantic launch tower. “SpaceX is proposing to construct two permanent integration towers to integrate the Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle. Each tower would be approximately 480 feet tall with a 10-foot lightning rod on top and include black cladding,” the company said. They also included a map (shown below) which outlines where the launch towers will be located. “SpaceX would construct one integration tower adjacent to Pad A and another adjacent to proposed Pad B (Figure 2-6). The launch vehicle would be integrated vertically on the launch pad. Super Heavy would be mated to the launch mount, followed by Starship mated to Super Heavy.”
Source: SpaceX FAA PEA
SpaceX already built one of the launch towers in preparation for its first orbital flight test, however, the company cannot perform a flight until the FAA reviews the environmental assessment and gives the company a license authorizing spaceflight operations. During the debut orbital flight attempt, engineers plan to conduct an uncrewed test flight to orbit from Boca Chica and land it off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. According to a separate document filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “The Starship Orbital test flight will originate from Starbase, TX. The Booster stage will separate approximately 170 seconds into flight. The Booster will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles from the shore,” SpaceX wrote, “The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100km off the northwest coast of Kauai [Hawaii] in a soft ocean landing.”
The company told the FCC that its objective for the first orbital flight test is “to collect as much data as possible during flight to quantify entry dynamics and better understand what the vehicle experiences in a flight regime that is extremely difficult to accurately predict or replicate computationally,” SpaceX said. “This data will anchor any changes in vehicle design or CONOPs [concept of operations] after the first flight and build better models for us to use in our internal simulations.”
Featured Image Source: SpaceX