FAA Says It’s Keeping an Eye on SpaceX on Environmental Concerns in South Texas

McALLEN, Texas (Border report) – The Federal Aviation Administration says it is tracking SpaceX and environmental concerns regarding the company’s desire to launch its massive Starship spacecraft from its launch facility in the southern tip of Texas.

“SpaceX cannot launch the Starship / Super Heavy vehicle until the FAA completes its licensing process, which includes the ongoing environmental review and other safety and financial responsibility requirements,” an FAA official wrote in an email Tuesday. a Border Report.

“As part of this process, analyzes are being carried out that determine the collective risk, the individual risk and the areas of danger on land, sea and air. SpaceX would not receive a license if it cannot comply with FAA safety regulations, ”the FAA wrote.

The remarks came in response to a Border Report article Thursday in which local environmentalists sent the federal agency a letter demanding data and information on the risks to border communities and wildlife from rocket tests and launches in course at the SpaceX facility near Boca Chica Beach, Texas. .

The SpaceX spacecraft is seen on October 1, 2019 at the launch facility in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. (Sandra Sánchez / File photo of the border report)

The nonprofit Save RGV wrote to the agency on Aug. 30 saying the massive Starship spacecraft “poses an unacceptable risk of harm to nearby communities” as well as wildlife, parks and “fragile wetlands. surrounding tidal pools “that are home to many endangered species. like sea turtles. And they want more oversight as this spacecraft is much bigger and more powerful than SpaceX had initially proposed and got FAA approval to test and launch when it first built the launch facility in 2014.

SpaceX wants to launch the Starship to Mars, and on the company website it says “Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed.”

Jim Chapman, a Save RGV board member and president of the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, reacted optimistically to learning that the FAA had issued a response to Border Report. But he said they, as a group, have yet to receive a formal reaction from the federal agency to their Aug. 30 letter.

“It is nice to see that in writing, ”Chapman said. “At least now they expressed that in a role essentially for the public that they are taking responsibility and setting out the requirements, so I would call it a positive response.”

However, Chapman still wants to know when the FAA will release the information from the safety studies to the public.

In January, the FAA briefly suspended the launch of SpaceX in South Texas after the private company launched its prototype SN8 rocket in December without permission from the FAA. However, in February the company was allowed to begin test launches again after the FAA determined that it had complied with “federal safety and related regulations … in accordance with its launch license,” the FAA said in an email to Border Report.

Chapman’s group says that given several test launch explosions at the Boca Chica Beach site, the FAA should be tougher on SpaceX to safeguard border communities and border wildlife.

He also criticized SpaceX’s recent construction of a 480-foot launch tower, saying that until the company gets permission to launch the Starship, the launch tower that was built in June should be ordered to be taken down.

In July, the FAA warned SpaceX that its environmental review of the new rocket assembly integration tower was incomplete and that the federal agency could order its removal.

“The FAA chided them for doing that without FAA approval and even mentioned that it is possible they would be forced to remove it, but no one believes they will be forced to remove it. He’s basically there to launch Starship Super Heavy, ”said Chapman.

An FAA spokesman told Reuters that “the company is building the tower at its own risk.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has criticized the FAA via social media and in May the company told the FAA that they did not believe an environmental review was necessary because the tower will be used “for production purposes, research and development and not for production, research and development purposes. ” or pitches allowed, ”Reuters reports.

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