Video Caption: Today we’re going inside Starbase with the ultimate tour guide, Elon Musk. He’s going to take us through the High Bay to see where Starships are assembled, we’ll also see the new MegaBay under construction and talk about SpaceX’s plans to get this rocket flying.
The FAA is working toward issuing the final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the SpaceX Starship / Super Heavy on May 31, 2022. SpaceX made multiple changes to its application that require additional FAA analysis. The agency continues to review around 18,000 general public comments.
The completion of the PEA will not guarantee that the FAA will issue a launch license. SpaceX’s application must also meet FAA safety, risk and financial responsibility requirements.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to fight for SpaceX to receive federal approval to launch its Super Heavy/Starship system from the company’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Rio Grande Guardianreports:
Asked by veteran broadcaster Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports whether he is concerned about losing SpaceX, Abbott said:
“What I am going to do if Biden interferes with the ability of SpaceX to launch from Boca Chica; I am going to be working every step of the way to make sure that they are going to be able to launch from Boca Chica. We heard the vision from Mr. Patel himself about what they are working on and our job is to make sure they are able to achieve their vision. And I have worked with Elon Musk very closely with regard to Tesla and the Giga factory in Austin, Texas. And we will be working with him very closely, every step of the way in Boca Chica for the future of SpaceX. We want that future and that vision to come from Boca Chica, from Brownsville, Texas.”
Whitlock followed up with: “And not to Florida?” Abbott responded: “Correct.”
Whitlock interviewed Abbott at an economic development event held recently at the Port of Brownsville. Since this event, SpaceX has learned that its application to expand its Boca Chica rocket launching site has hit a new hurdle.
Elon Musk’s controversial plan to launch SpaceX’s Super Heavy/Starship system from Boca Chica, Texas has hit another snag as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suspended review of the company’s application for an expansion of its Starbase spaceport. The reason: SpaceX’s failure to provide additional information requested from the company on May 21, 2021. The application can be revived if SpaceX provides the requested information.
Elon Musk’s recent update on the progress of SpaceX’s Super Heavy/Starship launch system didn’t provide much in the way of technical news. However, the billionaire’s presentation did seem to have had its intended political effect.
Musk was clear that if the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t come through with an approval to conduct launches from its Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceX will move operations to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program at the SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas (Draft PEA) on September 17, 2021, for public review and comment. The FAA received over 19,000 comments on the Draft PEA and will post the comments on the project website by February 18th. The project website can be found here: https://www.faa.gov/space/stakeholder_engagement/spacex_starship/.
SpaceX recently provided draft responses for these public comments received on the Draft PEA to the FAA for its review. SpaceX is also finalizing the Final PEA for the FAA’s review, acceptance, and coordination with the cooperating agencies. In addition, the FAA is continuing consultation and coordination with other agencies.
The FAA is updating the anticipated release date for the Final PEA on the Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard (Permitting Dashboard) and project website. The FAA intended to release the Final PEA on February 28, 2022. The FAA now plans to release the Final PEA on March 28, 2022 to account for further comment review and ongoing interagency consultations. A notice will be sent to individuals and organizations on the project distribution list when the Final PEA is available.
Thank you for your interest in the environmental review process.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will give an update on the development of Starship and Super Heavy boosters live from Starbase in Texas on Thursday at 9 p.m. EST (02:00 UTC on Friday). You can watch the webcast at www.spacex.com.
Arianespace will launch 34 OneWeb satellites aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:09 p.m. EST (18:09 UTC). You can watch the launch here.
Astra Space will attempt to launch four CubeSats for NASA for the third time on Thursday, Feb. 10. The launch window opens at 3 p.m. EST (20:00 UTC). You can watch a webcast of the launch at astra.com/livestream.
ESG Hound called in to discuss the ongoing FAA environmental assessment of SpaceX’s Boca Chica Starbase and the legal issues surrounding it. Most of the media have all but ignored the subject. It’s worth understanding in light of Elon Musk’s Starship update on Thursday evening at 9 p.m. EST.
We also talked about Virgin Galactic’s new president, Spaceport America’s multi-million dollar revenue problem, the proliferation of private space stations and modules, and what is shaping up to the busiest launch year in history.
I had a great time. Thank you to David for inviting me on. Thanks to ESG Hound for illuminating the issues at stake in the FAA’s attempt to approve Super Heavy/Starship launches from Boca Chica.
Video Caption: For the past eleven months, the Federal Aviation Administration has been taking public input regarding SpaceXs Boca Chica activities, but on September 17th, 2021 they announced their final push on Twitter.
The Common Sense Skeptic Community has now responded directly to the FAA with the transcript of this video.
The problem: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Park Service do not agree that launching the world’s most powerful rocket will have a non-significant impact on federal and state-managed wildlife refuges and national monuments that surround the Boca Chica launch site. Without their sign off, ESG Hound says the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can’t approve the plan using an ongoing environmental assessment that it aims to complete by Jan. 31. A more complicated and lengthy environmental review would be required, resulting in years of delays.
Further, if SpaceX has viable alternatives for Super Heavy/Starship launches in Florida, the company might be required to abandon the Starbase site in Texas. Developing news facilities could result in significant delays to Super Heavy/Starship and the Human Landing System that SpaceX is building for NASA to return astronauts to the lunar surface.
Confused? Let’s review a little bit of history first.
Editor’s Note: Not a bad analysis. He points out the questionable wisdom of launching the largest, most powerful rocket ever built from a base placed in the middle of a wildlife preserve with a number of endangered or threatened species.
However, he’s off in terms of some of his criticism. The FAA approval for 12 Falcon 9/Heavy launches annually included the right to test experimental vehicles at the site. Elon took that provision and drove Boosterzilla through it while abandoning plans for any Falcon 9 or Heavy launches from Boca Chica. Should the FAA has foreseen that? Maybe. Or just eliminated the provision for testing experimental vehicles?
As use of the facility changed, the FAA kept approving upgrades and expansion of the site even as the use completely changed. The agency finally chose an environmental assessment (EA) that SpaceX is writing over a much more rigorous and time consuming environmental impact statement (EIS). An EIS was done for the original approval; conservancy groups have been argument for another one given the significant changes in SpaceX’s plans. The wisdom of FAA’s decision to go with the less rigorous EA will likely end up being debated in court, delaying the project further.
FAA has dual mandate when it comes to commercial space: promote the industry while at the same time regulating it. The investigation into the SpaceShipTwo crash exposed that FAA was under political pressure to keep commercial space programs moving. Not just SpaceShipTwo but across the board. FAA knew the failure analysis for pilot error was deficient, but issued a waiver to allow the flight test program to continue. It was 15 months later that pilot error destroyed the ship.
So, I highly doubt that FAA’s delay had anything to do with accommodating SpaceX’s schedule, which is probably also delayed. An EA takes time to complete. The original Dec. 31 estimate was simply unrealistic. There were 18,000 comments to respond to in writing. FWS has serious concerns about endangered species that need to be addressed.
WASHINGTON (FAA PR) — The FAA plans to issue the Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the SpaceX Starship / Super Heavy project on Feb. 28, 2022. The previous target date was Dec. 31, 2021.
Under the oversight of the FAA, SpaceX is currently drafting responses for the over 18,000 public comments received on the Draft PEA and continues to prepare the Final PEA for the FAA’s review and acceptance. In addition, the FAA is continuing consultation and coordination with other agencies at the local, State and Federal level.
The environmental review is just one part of the FAA commercial space licensing process. SpaceX’s license application must also meet FAA safety, risk and financial responsibility requirements.
FAA’s plan to complete work on the preliminary environmental assessment for SpaceX’s expanded operations at Boca Chica by the end of December has been pushed back at least a month to end of January.
This is due to the need for additional interagency consultation on the Endangered Species Act relating the impacts of Super Heavy/Starship launches and landings at the south Texas site. ESG Hound, who has been following the review closely, has all the details.
The result is that Elon Musk’s plan to launch the first Super Heavy/Starship flight in January or February will be pushed back. ESG Hound believes the Jan. 31 is unrealistic.
WASHINGTON (FAA Update) — The FAA has three updates related to the SpaceX Starship / Super Heavy environmental review.
First, the transcripts from the Oct. 18 and Oct. 20 public hearings are now posted and available in English and Spanish.
Second, during the public comment period, the FAA received more than 17,000 written comments. The agency also received 121 verbal comments during the two public hearings.
Finally, the project is now posted on the U.S. Department of Transportation Permitting Dashboard. It shows a timetable for major milestones, including a target date of Dec. 31, 2021, to conclude the environmental assessment process.
SpaceX’s operations at its Boca Chica test site in Texas have severely impacted the adjacent Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge and its wildlife due to rocket explosions, wildfires and excessive road and beach closings, according to a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Federation Aviation Administration (FAA).
“Frequent closures of the Refuge caused by SpaceX activities are already substantially impairing both the Refuge’s ability to adequately manage the Refuge and the public’s enjoyment of the Boca Chica Beach area for wildlife-dependent recreation. There are both ‘adverse’ and ‘severe’ impacts to Refuge public use, management, wildlife, and habitat from the SpaceX activities,” the letter said.