FAA Pushes Starbase Environmental Assessment Back Another Month

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

FAA Statement

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.

Momentus Receives FCC License for First Flight

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Momentus PR) — Momentus Inc. (NASDAQ: MNTS) (“Momentus” or the “Company”), a U.S. commercial space company that plans to offer transportation and other in-space infrastructure services, today announced that it has received a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supporting the inaugural flight of the Vigoride orbital transfer vehicle on the upcoming SpaceX Transporter-5 mission targeted for launch in May 2022.

The FCC license, issued after consultation with government agencies, authorizes Momentus to use radio frequencies to communicate with Vigoride while the spacecraft is in Low Earth Orbit.

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Richard Branson Gets His Astronaut Wings, Aims to Eliminate Asterisk* Next Time

Unity 22 crew: Michael Masucci, Colin Bennett, Richard Branson, Sirisha Bandla, David Mackay and Beth Moses at the 37th Space Symposium. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
  • Billionaire aims to go higher and faster next time
  • Virgin Galactic still can’t get SpaceShipTwo all the way up (to Karman line)
  • FAA throws in the towel on deciding who is and who isn’t an astronaut

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Earlier this month, Richard Branson and two Virgin Galactic employees received commercial astronaut wings from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity flight test they took part in last July. The trio was the last group to receive the wings — FAA ended the program last year — and the honors came with a pretty big asterisk.

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Texas Gov. Abbott Vows to Fight for SpaceX to Launch From Boca Chica

Greg Abbott

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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 Guardian reports:

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.

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Suspends SpaceX’s Application to Expand Boca Chica Launch Facility

The purple line surrounds parts of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility that has been developed. Additional facilities would be added below that area. The dotted line delineates SpaceX’s property line. The orange areas are unvegetated salt flats. The green areas are high marsh areas. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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Space Organizations Urge FAA to Approve Boca Chica Site for Super Heavy/Starship Flight Tests

The purple line surrounds parts of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility that has been developed. Additional facilities would be added below that area. The dotted line delineates SpaceX’s property line. The orange areas are unvegetated salt flats. The green areas are high marsh areas. (Credit: SpaceX)

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (Mars Society PR) — A group of 14 space advocacy organizations today published a joint statement urging rapid U.S. government approval of SpaceX’s Starship test flights.

Commenting on the initiative, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said: “The organizations that have come together to make this statement represent every point of view within the space community. Whether one’s priority is settling Mars, developing space commerce, exploring the Moon, assuring national security, or gaining new knowledge of the Earth, the planets, or the universe, we all agree that it is vital that this program be allowed to move forward. There may be many more hurdles like this that SpaceX and others seeking to open the space frontier will face, but this statement shows that the often-fractured movement of space advocates can come together to help when it really counts.” 

The statement and its signatories are shown below. 

The SpaceX Starship offers extraordinary potential benefits for the exploration and development of space by both the public and private sectors. It will enable many new commercial space ventures as well as dramatically lower the costs and raise the frequency of scientific missions that will provide amazing new knowledge about our universe and home planet.

Its relatively clean environmental footprint, the large savings it offers U.S. taxpayers as a means of transport for government programs and missions and its ability to rapidly and regularly deliver satellite constellations and payloads to orbit will enhance national security, increase high paying jobs in the space sector, and propel American space leadership far ahead of any global competitors.

Therefore we, the undersigned organizations, strongly urge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other federal agencies to provide full approval to SpaceX to begin orbital test flights of the Starship at the earliest possible date.
 

Approved by:

The Mars Society
National Space Society
Earthlight Foundation
Alliance for Space Development
Space Development Foundation
Space Development Network
The Moon Society
The Mars Foundation
Space for Humanity
Tea Party in Space
For All Moonkind
The Coalition to Save Manned Space Exploration
The Space Resources Roundtable
The Space Development Steering Committee

Former Top Federal Regulator to Fly on Unregulated Spaceship

Jeff Bezos pins Blue Origin astronaut wings on actor William Shatner. (Credit: Blue Origin webcast)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first three passenger flights of Blue Origin’s New Shepard have been long on symbolism. On the first one, Jeff Bezos invited Wally Funk, who in 1960 was one of 13 women who underwent the same medical checks as the Original Seven Mercury astronauts. NASA wasn’t accepting female pilots at the time, so Funk had to wait 51 years to reach space.

New Shepard’s second flight included starship Capt. James T. Kirk, or more precisely, the actor who played the “Star Trek” captain, William Shatner. The third flight had Laura Shepard Churchley, the daughter of America’s first astronaut to fly to space, who launched aboard a vehicle named after her father, Alan.

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Saturday Night Live Star Pete Davidson, Dr. George Nield to Fly on Blue Origin’s 20th Mission

New Shepard takes off with six passengers on Dec. 11, 2021. (Credit: Blue Origin website)

KENT, Wash. (Blue Origin PR) — Blue Origin today announced the crew flying on its upcoming NS-20 flight on March 23 will include Marty Allen, Pete Davidson, husband and wife duo Sharon and Marc Hagle, Jim Kitchen, and Dr. George Nield. 

This mission is the fourth human flight for the New Shepard program and the 20th in its history.  

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Texas Leaders Pressuring FAA to Approve SpaceX’s Boca Chica Site for Super Heavy/Starship Launches

Super Heavy/Starship system in flight. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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.

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Astra Space Identifies Root Cause of Launch Failure

Astra Rocket LV0008 after liftoff. (Credit: Brady Kenniston/Astra)

by Andrew Griggs
Senior Director, Mission Management & Assurance
Astra Space

Note: Astra has not yet finalized the LV0008 investigation results with the FAA. The information in this blog post is preliminary until the investigation has been fully closed. 

On February 10, 2022, we launched Launch Vehicle 0008 (LV0008). This was our first launch with a deployable customer payload and our first time launching from Cape Canaveral. After a nominal first stage flight, an anomaly occurred during the stage separation process which resulted in the upper stage not reaching orbit and the end of the mission. We immediately initiated our investigation process to determine the root cause of the anomaly. Now, we can share more about what we’ve learned to date.

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Virgin Galactic Announces $81 Million Net Loss for Q4, $353 Million Loss for 2021

  • Commercial Service Remains on Track for Q4 2022
  • Current Fleet Enhancement Program On Schedule to be Completed in Q3 2022
  • Opened Ticket Sales to the General Public

TUSTIN, Calif. (Virgin Galactic PR)– Virgin Galactic Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) (“Virgin Galactic” or the “Company”) today announced its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2021 and provided a business update.

“We remain on track and on schedule to complete our enhancement program and launch commercial service later this year,” said Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic. “We achieved many important milestones in 2021 that laid an essential foundation towards becoming a scaled, commercial operation. In recent weeks, we opened sales to the general public and launched our new global consumer brand. Demand for our one-of-a-kind experience remains strong, and we are currently building our operations to accommodate our growing customer base.”

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Astra Space’s Update on Launch Failure

Rocket 3 lifts off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Feb. 10, 2022. (Credit: Brady Kenniston/Astra Space)

By Andrew Griggs
Senior Director
Mission Management & Assurance at Astra

Earlier this month, we launched for the first time out of Cape Canaveral. While this mission represented historic firsts for Astra, we experienced an anomaly during flight and were unable to deliver the payload to orbit. We deeply regret the loss of the mission and are working to investigate and identify the root cause of the issue. While our current investigation is ongoing, I wanted to share a little more about our process for investigating issues in flight.

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FAA Delays Draft Environmental Assessment for SpaceX’s Starbase Launch Site in Texas

Jets fly by SpaceX’s Super Heavy/Starship launch system. (Credit: Jared Isaacman)

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. 

The FAA SpaceX Boca Chica Project Team