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SpaceX awaits Starship launch approval as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has yet to complete Environmental Impact Investigation

SpaceX awaits Starship launch approval as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has yet to complete Environmental Impact Investigation

Featured Images Source: Tesmanian.com Evelyn J. Arevalo @JaneidyEve

SpaceX is ready to launch the second fully-integrated Starship Super Heavy, however, the company is still pending a spaceflight license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In order to receive launch approval, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) must complete their investigation into the environmental impact of the Starbase launch operations. FWS has yet to begin the review process which could potentially take months to complete which may delay the next flight attempt to orbit. The timeline for the FWS investigation varies widely, estimated to be between 30 to 135 days, depending on the complexity of the task. 

 

The Starship, which currently stands ready on its launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas, has garnered widespread attention for its potential to revolutionize space travel and space enthusiasts from around the world are eagerly waiting for SpaceX to launch Starship to orbit. NASA also depends on SpaceX to speed up its Starship development operations because the company has been paid to develop a lunar-optimized version of Starship, called Human Landing System (HLS), to return astronauts to the Moon by 2025. 

Recently, FAA representatives expressed optimism about completing the safety review of the license application by the end of October. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared on September 10 that Starbase teams had completed 57 “corrective actions” required by the FAA for Flight 2 of Starship. The corrective actions include improvements in various aspects of the launch system from structural enhancements to safety measures, including the integration of a steel water deluge system at the Starbase launch tower, as previously reported by TESMANIAN. However, SpaceX's modifications to the Starship program are subject to an additional environmental review process. As part of this process, the FAA submitted a draft update of the Biological Assessment to the US Fish & Wildlife Service for review and requested consultation under the Endangered Species Act in August. In an email FAA SpaceX Boca Chica Project representatives stated: "SpaceX conducted a test flight of the Starship/Super Heavy at Boca Chica, TX on April 20, 2023. As a result of that launch, SpaceX completed a mishap investigation with FAA oversight; this investigation analyzed the launch, mishap events, and corrective actions. Before it is authorized to conduct a second Starship/Super Heavy launch, SpaceX must obtain a modified license from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental, and other regulatory requirements. As part of that license application determination process, the FAA will review new environmental information, including changes related to the launch pad, as well as other proposed vehicle and flight modifications. The FAA will complete a Written Reevaluation (WR) to the 2022 Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) evaluating the new environmental information, including Endangered Species Act consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the FAA determines through the WR process that the contents of the PEA do not remain valid in light of the changes proposed for Flight 2, additional environmental review will be required. Accordingly, the FAA has not authorized SpaceX’s proposed Flight 2."

Read more: Elon Musk Shares List of Corrective Actions SpaceX Completed Following FAA Investigation into Starship Launch Mishap 

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Featured Images Source: Tesmanian.com Journalist Evelyn J. Arevalo @JaneidyEve

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

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.

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