Featured Image Source: Illustration by Erc X @ErcXspace via Twitter
SpaceX is developing Starship at the South Texas Launch Facility located in Boca Chica Beach. Starship is the aerospace company’s next-generation launch vehicle that is designed to colonize Mars and take astronauts back to the Moon. For the past two years SpaceX has been testing stainless-steel prototypes of the spacecraft at the Boca Chica rocket factory where the company plans to build its first Spaceport. The founder of SpaceX Elon Musk calls Boca Chica Beach the ‘Gateway To Mars’. He hopes to transport humans aboard Starship to the Red Planet by 2026.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently performing an Environmental Assessment (EA) of the SpaceX South Texas Launch Facility. The EA is needed to obtain necessary license(s) to perform Starship flights and testing. FAA announced it started a ‘scoping’ period and published some of SpaceX’s plans for the Starship launch site this week, asking South Texas residents to check it out and provide their thoughts on the company’s plans to launch Starship routinely. “The FAA wants to hear from you – we are accepting public comments until Jan. 22, 2021, about the public scoping period for the draft Environmental Assessment for proposed SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy launches from Boca Chica, TX,” the Administration announced via Twitter.
The FAA wants to hear from you – we are accepting public comments until Jan. 22, 2021, about the public scoping period for the draft Environmental Assessment for proposed @SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy launches from Boca Chica, TX. Learn more at https://t.co/5PDCxiVGOK. #FAASpace pic.twitter.com/1PhgPm0sYL— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) December 22, 2020
FAA is currently in the initial stages of performing the environmental review at Boca Chica Beach where SpaceX has plans to conduct twenty-eight static-fire Raptor engine tests and fifteen 30-kilometer (km) 'hop' launch tests per year. “SpaceX is proposing to annually conduct up to 420 seconds of static fire engine tests and 15 hops of the Starship test vehicle. Typical static fire duration is 15 seconds. Suborbital hops would last several minutes and the test vehicle would fly up to 30 km,” SpaceX wrote to the FAA. The document mentions that some future Starship test flights may land “downrange in the ocean” which suggests SpaceX has plans to build a floating platform at sea, similar to a Falcon 9 rocket’s landing droneship.
The documents the FAA published also detail the company’s plan to expand the launch facility to begin orbital Starship tests. These tests will require the use of a gigantic Super Heavy rocket booster to propel Starship to space. “SpaceX's proposed new launch-related construction activity consists of expanding the solar farm, adding infrastructure and facilities at the VLA [Vertical Launch Area], a liquid natural gas pretreatment system and a liquefier. At the VLA, SpaceX is proposing to construct a redundant launch pad and commodities, a redundant landing pad, two integration towers, tank structural test stands, and a desalination plant,” the Administration shared this week. The overall Environmental Assessment will determine whether SpaceX’s proposed operations could cause an impact to the surrounding environment and wildlife.
If the assessment goes well, it will enable SpaceX to obtain an experimental permit(s) and/or a vehicle operator license from the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation to operate the Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicles in South Texas. “The FAA's evaluation of a permit or license application includes a review of 1) public safety issues (such as overflight of populated areas and payload contents); 2) national security or foreign policy concerns; 3) insurance requirements for the launch operator; and 4) potential environmental impact,” the Administration stated in a press release on December 23.
Image Source: Illustration by Erc X @ErcXspace via Twitter
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.