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As you may be aware, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been building massive rockets in a small town in Texas and had hoped to do a test launch earlier this year. But plans for the launch kept getting pushed back because of FAA requirements including an environmental review of the rocket’s impact on the area. Today, the FAA concluded there are no longer any environmental reasons to prevent launches from the site SpaceX calls Starbase.
An environmental assessment by the agency has concluded that SpaceX’s plans for orbital launches will have “no significant impact” on the region along the Gulf Coast near Brownsville, Texas. But the F.A.A. is also requiring the company to undertake more than 75 actions to minimize the impact on the surrounding areas as it begins flights of Starship, a vehicle that is central to NASA’s plans to return to the moon as well as the vision of Elon Musk, the company’s founder and chief executive, to colonize Mars…
The decision means that a more comprehensive environmental impact statement, which would have likely added years to the project, is not needed. However, the regulatory move could face other legal challenges, and SpaceX still needs to obtain a license from the F.A.A. for launches.
SpaceX’s site is in a tiny village called Boca Chica, which the company has taken to calling Starbase.
There, for several years, SpaceX has been working on Starship, a stainless steel behemoth that would be the most powerful rocket ever. Together with a booster stage, it will stand nearly 400 feet high, taller than the Statue of Liberty and its pedestal.
SpaceX tweeted out the news today.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 13, 2022
There are no tweets directly from Musk about the approval. This decision was originally expected back in December but the FAA kept pushing it off, forcing SpaceX to continually push back its launch plans. CNBC reported on the delays in April.
The Federal Aviation Administration for a fourth time delayed its environmental review of SpaceX’s Starship rocket program in Texas, pushing a decision to the end of May.
SpaceX needs a license from the FAA to conduct further Starship flight tests and begin operational launches from its private facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The FAA, which began its environmental review in November 2020, delayed making a decision three previous times in the past five months – from Dec. 31 to Feb. 28. to Mar. 28 to Apr. 29 – and now expects to release the assessment on May 31.
“The FAA is working toward issuing the final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) … SpaceX made multiple changes to its application that require additional FAA analysis. The agency continues to review around 18,000 general public comments,” the regulator said in a statement.
Last April, NASA selected SpaceX as its partner to return to the moon, choosing them over two rivals including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Here’s the announcement video.