FAA Holding Public Scoping Period for SpaceX Boca Chica Environmental Assessment

Starship SN8 takes off from Boca Chica, Texas. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site Scoping Period
FAA Announcement

The FAA is holding a public scoping period to assist the FAA in determining the scope of issues for analysis in the draft environmental assessment (EA). As a part of the public scoping period, the FAA requests public comments. More information about providing public comments can be found at the end of this email.

SpaceX Activities

SpaceX proposes to conduct Starship/Super Heavy launch operations from the Boca Chica Launch Site. SpaceX’s proposed launch operations include suborbital launches (flight tests) and orbital launches. The proposed action also includes pre-flight operations (tank tests, mission rehearsals, and static fire engine tests) and construction activities associated with launch activities, including: expanding the solar farm, adding infrastructure and facilities at the vertical launch area (VLA), 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. More information about the project can be found on the FAA project site located here.

Environmental Assessment

The draft EA will be prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA; 42 United States Code 4321 et seq.), the Council on Environmental Quality Regulations for Implementing the Procedural Provisions of NEPA (40 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 1500–1508 [2020]), and FAA Order 1050.1F, Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures. The FAA is considering the preparation of a Programmatic EA for this effort.

Concurrent with the NEPA process, the FAA will be initiating consultation required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act to determine the potential effects of the FAA’s undertaking on historic properties. The FAA will also be consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act regarding potential effects to threatened and endangered species and critical habitat. Pursuant to the U.S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966, the environmental review will comply with the requirements of Section 4(f) of the Act.

The alternatives under consideration include the proposed action and the no action alternative. Under the no action alternative, the FAA would not issue new licenses to SpaceX for any test or launch operations at the Boca Chica Launch Site. SpaceX could conduct missions of the Starship prototype launch vehicle as authorized by the current license (LRLO 20-119A). The license expires on May 27, 2022.

Public Comments

The FAA requests public comments on potential alternatives and impacts, and identification of any relevant information, studies, or analyses of any kind concerning impacts affecting the quality of the human environment. The FAA is considering the preparation of a Programmatic EA for this effort. Please include any comments on the preparation of a Programmatic EA. Please submit comments by January 22, 2020 to the following email address: spacexbocachica@icf.com. Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your entire comment—including your personal identifying information—may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold from public review your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Stacey M. Zee
Office of Commercial Space Transportation
Federal Aviation Administration