FAA to complete its environmental review on SpaceX by December 31, letting the firm launch Starships


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has set December 31 for when it plans to conclude its environmental assessment into SpaceX’s launch program.

The update means the Elon Musk-led firm could soon prepare to send its first Starship rocket into orbit as early as the first-quarter 2022 – a mission that has been on pause since the review began this summer.

The assessment looks at environmental impacts of SpaceX’s initial mission profile and reviews debris recovery, local road closures in Boca Chica, Texas, where the firm’s launch site is located, and other issues.

Musk, who has been critical of FAA regulations in the past, seemed delighted by the news and took to Twitter to share his reaction: ‘The hard work by FAA, US Fish & Wildlife and Texas Parks & Wildlife is much appreciated, as well as the strong local support from Cameron County and Brownsville/South Padre.’

 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has set December 31 for when it plans to conclude its environmental assessment into SpaceX’s launch program

The Starship program aims to develop vehicles for the interplanetary travel of cargo and humans to the moon, Mars and beyond.

To perfect the rockets, SpaceX plans to conduct several test launches over the next few years, all of which will require a permit or vehicle operator license from the FAA.

Before granting SpaceX a permit, the FAA drafted a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA), which evaluates the potential environmental impacts of the launch activities conducted at the Starbase facility located in Boca Chica of Cameron County, Texas.

The FAA released a 151-page draft environmental review in September.

The update means the Elon Musk-led firm could soon prepare to send its first Starship rocket into orbit as early as the first-quarter 2022 – a mission that has been on pause since the review began this summer

The update means the Elon Musk-led firm could soon prepare to send its first Starship rocket into orbit as early as the first-quarter 2022 – a mission that has been on pause since the review began this summer

Musk, who has been critical of FAA regulations in the past, seemed delighted by the news and took to Twitter to share his reaction

Musk, who has been critical of FAA regulations in the past, seemed delighted by the news and took to Twitter to share his reaction

However, the agency then extended the public comment period for the draft environmental review of the proposed program to November 1, which added a delay.

The FAA received more than 17,000 written comments and 121 oral comments during two virtual public hearings that were held on October 18 and October 20.

The last to comment during the virtual hearing was Brownsville District 2 City Commissioner, Jessica Tetreau, who begged the agency to grant SpaceX the necessary permission to launch.

‘I don’t just ask you, I beg you to give them that permit,’ said Tetreau. ‘There are people who don’t understand and appreciate this project.’ 

Completion of the environmental review does not guarantee that SpaceX will be granted the necessary permits or license.  

Although Musk seemed appreciative of the FAA's timeline, the billionaire has not always been happy with the agency. In January, he bashed the FAA on Twitter for its rules regarding space launches that caused a delay in SpaceX launching its Starship Serial Number 9 (SN9) rocket

Although Musk seemed appreciative of the FAA’s timeline, the billionaire has not always been happy with the agency. In January, he bashed the FAA on Twitter for its rules regarding space launches that caused a delay in SpaceX launching its Starship Serial Number 9 (SN9) rocket

A month later , the FAA announced it would oversee the investigation of the SN9's crash-landing on February 2. SpaceX eventually launched its SN9 for its first high-altitude test, but the massive rocket was unable to maneuver into the vertical position before landing on the launch pad and exploded upon landing

A month later , the FAA announced it would oversee the investigation of the SN9’s crash-landing on February 2. SpaceX eventually launched its SN9 for its first high-altitude test, but the massive rocket was unable to maneuver into the vertical position before landing on the launch pad and exploded upon landing

Although Musk seemed appreciative of the FAA’s timeline, the billionaire has not always been happy with the agency.

In January, he bashed the FAA on Twitter for its rules regarding space launches that caused a delay in SpaceX launching its Starship Serial Number 9 (SN9) rocket.

Musk again when to battle with the FAA in July , when the agency warned SpaceX that its environmental review of a new tower at its Boca Chica launch site in Texas is incomplete and the agency could order SpaceX to take down the tower

Musk again when to battle with the FAA in July , when the agency warned SpaceX that its environmental review of a new tower at its Boca Chica launch site in Texas is incomplete and the agency could order SpaceX to take down the tower

‘Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure,’ Musk tweeted.

‘Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.’

The FAA has stayed quiet while Musk airs his frustrations online, but the division told DailyMail.com in January: ‘We will continue working with SpaceX to resolve outstanding safety issues before we approve the next test flight.’

Although not stated by the FAA, the delay may be due to SpaceX’s previous test flight of its Starship SN8 that traveled about seven miles into the air and then exploded on the launch pad in what Musk called ‘an awesome test.’

A month later, the FAA announced it would oversee the investigation of the SN9’s crash-landing on February 2.

SpaceX eventually launched its SN9 for its first high-altitude test, but the massive rocket was unable to maneuver into the vertical position before landing on the launch pad and exploded upon landing.

Musk again went to battle with the FAA in July, as the agency warned SpaceX that its environmental review of a new tower at its Boca Chica launch site in Texas is incomplete and the agency could order SpaceX to take down the tower.

With the last FAA review, the agency will have determine if a ‘finding of no significant’ can be issued or it needs to perform a more intense review – an environmental impact statement that would ground the Starship even longer.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk