The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has determined that SpaceX’s plans for the company’s gigantic Starbase launch site in South Texas will have some environmental impact on the surrounding land and area, but will not require a full environmental impact report. Now, SpaceX needs to make more than 75 changes to its plan If the company wants to avoid further review and eventually get a license from the FAA for the Starbase feature, it will have to launch its new Starship Rocket into orbit from that site.
SpaceX’s Starface facility is located in the small town of Boca Chica, Texas, on the southern tip of Texas on the Rio Grande River and the US-Mexico border. For the past few years, SpaceX has been using the platform to build full-scale prototypes of the next-generation Monster Rocket, the starship company designed to transport people and cargo to deeper locations such as the Moon and Mars. SpaceX has already conducted various high-altitude test flights with StarShip prototypes from Starbase, but for now, the company actually hopes to launch Starship into space for the first time and send the vehicle into orbit.
In order to launch a starship into orbit from Starbase, SpaceX must first obtain a launch license from the FAA. For the past year and a half the fate of SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica has been in balance as the FAA has been conducting an environmental review of how the company’s release activities will affect the surrounding area. Now, with the decision that has been made, SpaceX needs to look at more than 75 actions listed by the FAA to reduce its environmental impact. If SpaceX makes those changes, it will pave the way for the company to obtain a publishing license for Starship, which is not yet guaranteed.
SpaceX points out on Twitter that it sees this decision as good news to move forward with its launch plans.
SpaceX did not initially plan to launch its future moon and Mars rocket from Texas. SpaceX acquired its first land in Boca Chica in 2012 with the aim of developing a commercial launch site to launch its smallest Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Finally SpaceX imagined launching 12 times a year, away from the hustle and bustle of its busiest launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. With that goal in mind, the FAA conducted a full environmental review of SpaceX’s projects, and in 2014 the company released an Environmental Impact Report, or EIS, describing how those small launches could affect the area. EIS can take months and even years to complete, as it involves interviewing experts, scientists, business executives, and residents and conducting rigorous analysis and research into how a proposed project would affect the nearby human environment.
However, SpaceX’s plans have changed significantly since the first EIS was released. Beginning in 2018, after the South Texas facility decided to dedicate only to the production of starship prototypes, the company actively increased production operations in Boca Chica. SpaceX was once the simplest business publishing facility ever imagined, a prosperous installation, filled with massive warehouses and tents and dominated by full-time construction carried out by thousands of employees.
As SpaceX’s presence in the area grew, the company began conducting high – altitude flight tests with its starship prototypes – launching vehicles at altitudes of 30,000 to 40,000 feet before attempting to land back on Earth. Most of those tests ended in fiery explosions, and only one landed successfully. A prototype exploded shortly before landing in March 2021, spreading metal debris throughout a nearby wildlife sanctuary.
The test flights, combined with current construction and ground testing, led to increasing tension with the nearby community. Starbase is located next to a small neighborhood of two dozen houses called Boca Sica Village, which can only be accessed via a separate state highway that connects to Starbase. The road is frequently closed during raids and other demonstrations, restricting access to both the village and the nearby beach. Residents too It was reported that their daily lives were being disrupted They were often asked to leave their homes during major trials. Many people in the village of Boca Sica have sold their property to SpaceX, although a few residents still own their homes.
Finally, in late 2020, The FAA announced that it plans to conduct an environmental review of SpaceX’s plans to launch Starship into orbit from Starbase. In September 2021, the FAA Published a draft project environmental assessment, Or PEA, sets up SpaceX’s updated plans for the region. During Starship’s current development, SpaceX plans to launch 20 sub-orbital launches a year, sending the vehicle to higher altitudes or into space before attempting to land – but not into orbit – back to Earth. The company also plans to launch five orbital and / or sub-orbital launches a year on top of the super heavy booster, which will make SpaceX a larger rocket that will give Starship the extra impetus it needs to reach orbit. During these missiles, the super heavy will attempt to land back on Earth, landing pad or on a platform in the nearby Gulf of Mexico.
Eventually SpaceX estimates that access to the state highway will be closed for a total of 500 hours each year for normal operations and 300 hours each year for disruption. Things will definitely change as SpaceX progresses in its development. SpaceX expects the number of orbital launches to increase over time, while co-pilots will decrease. Beyond the hurdle, SpaceX outlined other key additions to its plans, including the development of a natural gas treatment system for the methane purification used in the starship rocket. There was speculation that SpaceX would have to lay a pipeline to carry the gas to the plant.
SpaceX has dropped its plans for a natural gas pre-treatment plant, a power plant and a desalination plant, according to a FAA decision released today. The company has modified the capabilities of its Raptor engine, which is used to operate Starship. Because of these changes, SpaceX does not need as many engines as its vehicles previously anticipated, but the FAA decided that it would not cause “significant changes in environmental impacts.”
As part of its environmental review, the FAA conducted a feedback period for SpaceX’s proposed projects. Strong criticism and support from members of the public. Many critics have called for the FAA to launch a new EIS, as it was not enough in 2014 based on SpaceX’s new plans. The FAA said it received more than 18,000 comments during the period, which helped prolong the decision-making process. The FAA had to consult with various government agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Park Service, which raised some questions about the potential impact of SpaceX in the area. In a biological commentary given to the FAA, the FWS noted that the piping flower population was declining, an endangered bird nesting in Boca Chica, associated with an increase in SpaceX activity in the area. CNBC reported.
As part of this decision, the FAA will no longer hold another EIS, which will save SpaceX some time moving forward with its first orbital launch. But the company still has work to do. The more than 75 actions listed by the FAA include things that SpaceX can do to mitigate its impact on air quality, sound levels and access to nearby beaches. The company should provide advanced notification of its launches to local authorities and the general public. SpaceX cannot hold road closures during the 18 identified holidays, and it can only close the road five weekends a year.
Prior to the FAA decision, SpaceX also received a potential blow from the Army Corps of Engineers for its projects in Boca Chica. In March, the Corps reported to SpaceX Withdrawal of Company Permit Application Citing a lack of requested information provided by the company, for plans to expand the Starface. SpaceX can reactivate the permit application process by providing the information requested by Corps.
In the meantime, SpaceX is working on a possible plan for Starship. In December, the company began construction of a starship launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, which has been conducting orbital launches for the past half-century. SpaceX already operates two missiles for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets outside that area.
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