The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is conducting an environmental assessment of SpaceX’s Starbase launch site located in the southernmost tip of Texas at Boca Chica Beach. The assessment is to ensure safe spaceflight operations and evaluates potential environmental impacts of SpaceX’s Starship/Super Heavy development program, which involves ground testing and launching up to twenty methane-fueled spacecraft annually. Completing an environmental review is required for SpaceX to apply for a Starship/Super Heavy flight license to conduct a debut orbital flight test.
SpaceX is developing Starship to return NASA astronauts to the Moon and send the first humans to Mars within this decade. The company has manufactured and tested stainless-steel Starship prototypes since 2019 and completed multiple high-altitude test flights under 20-kilometers that enabled engineers to rapidly advance the spacecraft development. SpaceX is preparing a Starship and Super Heavy rocket for the first orbital flight attempt since Summer of 2021. The FAA has been conducting an environmental assessment of the Boca Chica Beach launch site since June 2021 which has caused the Starship debut orbital flight to be delayed.
The FAA has delayed its completion of the assessment multiple times and expected to finalize it on by February 28 after nearly 9 months, then delayed until March 28. Today, the assessment has been delayed once again. "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is updating the release date for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) on the Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard (Permitting Dashboard) and project website. The FAA plans to issue the Final PEA on April 29th," wrote the Administration via an email announcement. "The planned April 29, 2022 release date will allow the FAA to review the Final PEA, including responses to comments, and complete consultation and coordination with agencies at the local, State, and Federal level. All consultations must be complete before the FAA can issue the Final PEA."
The FAA published an 152-page Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) document in September 2021 which details the Starship program’s potential impacts in South Texas. The Administration invited the public to submit public comments to voice their support or concerns about SpaceX operations at Boca Chica Beach. The FAA received more than 19,000 written comments via email and around 120 oral comments during a pair of public hearings last year. Starbase is in a tiny village that neighbors a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge and a public beach. The FAA is conducting the environmental review of the launch site alongside the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and the Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. See FAA Starbase environmental assessment timeline here: Permitting Dashboard
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