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No launch of Starship/Superheavy until February?

Superheavy still going strong, shortly after Max-Q
Superheavy still going strong, shortly after Max-Q,
during April test launch

In an email statement released on October 19, 2023 by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and reported by Bloomberg news today, FWS decided to initiate a ” a formal review of the upgrades SpaceX has made to its Starship launch system”, beginning on October 5.

Most of the Bloomberg article is behind a paywall, but the second paragraph is really the key quote:

The FWS now has as long as 135 days to create an updated biological opinion about how Starship and its launches impact the local environment, however the agency does not “expect to take the full amount of time,” a representative said in the statement.

If FWS does take the full time period, no launch can occur before February. Nor should anyone naively believe its statement that it does not expect to take the full amount of time. For example, SpaceX completed installation of its upgraded Starship/Superheavy launch system, including the water deluge equipment at its base, in early August. Why did Fish and Wildlife wait till now, almost three months later, to begin its review?

The obvious answer, which fits with the entire behavior of the federal bureaucracy since Joe Biden took over as president, is to slowwalk all work in order to hurt SpaceX and Elon Musk. FWS might be able to cite what seem to be justifiable reasons for this delay, but the president could easily cut through this red tape and make things happen, quickly. Biden clearly has no interest in doing so, and in fact all the actions of his administration say otherwise.

I once again must note what I predicted in April. At that time I thought the government would make all future launches from Boca Chica impossible. Though this was too pessimistic, it was essentially correct, since getting permission from multiple government agencies for each launch means months of delays each time. Under those conditions the development of Superheavy and Starship is impossible. I added:

SpaceX should waste as little energy now in trying to fly from Boca Chica. Don’t pour good money after bad. Better to quickly shift gears to Florida, and therefore waste as little time or capital as possible.

In May I refined my prediction, and said this launch “we should not be surprised if approval does not come before the end of the year.” That prediction continues to be right on the money.

The tragedy of these facts, the result of Biden policies, is that SpaceX might face financial ruin, and NASA’s Artemis program faces years of delay. SpaceX needs Starship to complete and maintain its Starlink constellation. Using just Falcon 9 is insufficient, and thus exposes the company to FCC sanctions for not completing the constellation on time. NASA needs Starship as its manned lunar lander. Without these test launches SpaceX can’t get it built, and thus the manned return to the Moon must be delayed.

This administration however is not interested in these purely American achievements. Elon Musk has made it clear he no longer supports Biden and the Democratic Party. He is therefore an enemy and must be squashed. To Biden and the Democrats, all that matters is their power.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

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  • Cotour

    Looks like Elon will have to begin trading his eco good works accumulated leverage in building electric cars and the carbon credits that he might be entitle to for increased launch numbers?

    Or have the Chinese sent a message to their man in the White House that Space X is launching a bit too much and making them look bad?

  • Col Beausabre

    I wonder which one of the bidumbs came up with this plan and how big a promotion and/or bonus he got

  • James Street

    When godless commies realized Americans weren’t buying what they had to sell, they switched to the environmentalism to enter through the back door.

    As they say environmentalists are like watermelons: green on the outside, red on the inside.

    It seems different now though. Democrats have let psychopaths take over. These guys aren’t interested in bringing about the communist utopia. They just want to watch the world burn.

    “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
    – Alfred in The Dark Knight
    1 minute

  • Doubting Thomas

    Lots of discussion. Several people tracking say Nov 6th too close but November still in the running. Agree that the “Big Guy” and his puppet masters care little about this. Think there are people in USG that are doing what they can. They lack the power of the Droogs in charge. Couple nights ago KVEO-TV (CBS) local news had a piece where spokeswoman for local environmental group speaking. She was hysterically opposed to “Beach Closures” caused by SpaceX.

    No notification yet from Cameron County on road closures but still a bit early

    NASA WB-57 Calendar shows WSC-927 with an “Imaging Place Holder” for week of Nov 5 – 10. Concerning is that other 2 WB-57 are out of action in major upkeep through November.

    USCG Local Notice to Mainers 20-23 Updated October 25th 2023 EXTRACT Below. STILL PRETTY BROAD.

    FL/AL/MS/LA/TX – GULF OF MEXICO – Hazardous Space Operations – UPDATE
    On November 6, 2023, between 5:25 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., rocket launching operations are scheduled to take place near Boca Chica Beach, Texas. *****Back-up launch dates and times include each day following November 1, 2023, between 5:25 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., until conditions permit the launch.*****
    Mariners operating offshore in waters east of Brownsville, Texas, are advised of the scheduled rocket launching activities and associated hazardous areas……….

    No corresponding NTM for area surrounding Hawaii

  • Doubting Thomas; Whoopie-do! They might be able to launch in November! Praise be to Biden for his blessings.

    Remember, when I predicted delays until the end of the year, people thought that absurd. Doug Messier said I didn’t understand the regulatory process. In the end, Biden and his thugs are doing exactly what I predicted, allowing or demanding the bureaucracy to go as slow as possible.

    A November launch, should it happen, will be no victory, but proof that it will be forever impossible for SpaceX to use Boca Chica in any practical manner, until these goons are out of office and we have a major house-cleaning of the executive branch, tied with a major house-cleaning the regulator laws.

  • Let me add many of these same people were tracking an August launch, then a September launch, then an October launch, none of which happened.

    Why are so many Americans so willing to fool themselves?

  • BrewingFrog

    What I fail to understand is why the Texas Congressional Delegation isn’t tearing into these FWS frauds for holding things up like this. Especially the South Texas Congresscritters. April’s launch was a monstrous event, bringing in people from all over the State (and further)! The local businesses and taxing entities are desperately needing something like this to get things moving, and the holdup is indefensible.

  • Jeff Wright

    They should threaten massive cuts to F&W

  • Doubting Thomas

    Robert – No where in my post did I praise or thank Biden. Just thought I would share news items with your great community.

    BrewingFrog – I agree. Local Representatives Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela both Democrats, have never issued any strong statements of support for Starbase and SpaceX. Senator Cruz has been an enthusiastic supporter, Senator Cornyn silent. Gov Abbott says he is a supporter.

    All the best

  • Doubting Thomas: I apologize if my response implied that YOU were praising or thanking Biden. I was referencing those you were quoting, who keep imagining the launch is just around the corner, and that this regulatory process is absolutely normal, to be expected.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “Doug Messier said I didn’t understand the regulatory process.

    Doug does not understand that the government is not using the regulatory process but is abusing it.

  • Milt

    BrewingFrog and Doubting Thomas —

    Unhappily, I agree. With the possible exception of Senator Cruz, the politicians in Texas all *talk* a good game, but in practice they DO
    NOTHING to oppose the “destroy America first” agenda of the Biden Administration and the puppet masters behind it.

    As in the case of watching Texas being overrun by illegal alien invaders — and on this point Governor Abbott is as full of helium as Sergey Brin’s airship — it is clear that almost no one in the government of Texas cares a whit about either the economic benefits of SpaceX to their state or the future of America’s manned space program. Or at least not enough to actually “do” anything.

    Given the history and culture of Texas, is sad to think that it has come to this, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Lone Star State is now being led by people who are neither thoughtful nor courageous. (One imagines the defenders of the Alamo having long discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion and then inviting Santa Anna in to discuss reparations for all of the trouble that the American colonizers had been causing the Mexican government.) Texas, in short, appears to cheerfully embrace Biden’s vision for America, and if this should lead to the demise of SpaceX, oh, well.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Milt – You have written a very clear set of observations about Texas that I also see from my neck of the Texas woods. The hypocrisy of the “Republicans” is what really drives me crazy.

  • Questioner

    To all:

    Considering all the (perhaps foreseeable) troubles Musk is having in South Texas, choosing Boca Chica as a launch site may not have been one of his best decisions after all. A question for the blog: On the day of his decision for Boca Chica (was that 2012?), were there any other serious alternatives?


    I assume that the absolute majority of these alien invaders are Mexican. Can’t one then view this process as meaning that this culture is taking back what already belonged to it before the US conquest of Texas? They are simply exploiting the weakness of the state (=declining empire) in which they are still peacefully invading.

  • Guest

    The appropriate response to this situation is to begin moving launch operations to a foreign country in an aggressive fashion as possible. Matamoros is just a few miles south of Boca Chica, but out of reach of American bureaucrats. I’m sure Mexico would welcome the economic development that would come with such investment.

    The DoD needs SpaceX, as NASA is no longer capable of performing its core mission. If SpaceX starts moving launch operations to a foreign country the DoD will overrule the pinheads at the Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • Guest: You are obviously new here, so you get to read my standard reply to your suggestion (written and cut and pasted in whenever people make this suggestion), which is an impossible and bad idea on many levels:
    Why is it the first reaction of so many people when I post stories like this is to suggest that Elon Musk flee, to run away? Not only can’t he do it (both for legal and practical reasons), it is the worst possibly reaction to this government overreach.

    It is time all Americans stopped running. There really is no where else to go. We need to stand and fight, and force the government and its intolerant minions to back down. Otherwise, freedom will continue to lose ground everywhere.

    I expect Musk to fight, as he has fought and won previously.

    As for moving:

    1. Legally he can’t. SpaceX as a rocket company falls until strict federal regulations. No matter where he moves those regulations will apply, especially because much of his work force and materials will come from the U.S.

    2. Practically he can’t. The qualified workers and infrastructure doesn’t exist in these other locations. You can’t simply recreate this kind of hi-tech company in South Africa, in Mexico, or any other third world country.

  • David Eastman

    Many people who are supposedly privy to inside information continue to say that an early November launch is still likely. Then we get these reports on the process that indicate the permitting process could take months more, and the FAA and FWS say nothing. I have no idea whether SpaceX and NASA are given any accurate insight into how the permitting process is actually going or if they are only slightly more informed than the public. I’m past making predictions, we’ll see how it turns out, and which information sources turned out to be more accurate.

    I wish I could believe that things would go faster if they were building and launching at the Cape, but my belief is that the FAA and FWS would be just as intrusive regardless of the existing history there, and NASA and the Air Force would be unable to resist adding their own pokers to the fire.

  • pzatchok

    Boca Chica was a great spot to choose for launches.

    It is directly on the coast. Any problems and things land in the water.’

    All the land around the launch site is already a water shed and closed to any further construction, but it is allowed to be used for recreation and scientific study.
    The homes and the launch site were grandfathered in. That is why he tried to buy up the few homes that were already there. The hold outs are using the property as a site seeing opportunity.

    As for any creatures inside the launch area none of them are endangered or even exclusive to living there, they are all over hundreds of miles of coast land.

    The only reason for any restrictions now is just political. Just to see who swings the biggest pile of paper.

  • Jeff Wright

    I don’t want Musk to go to another country–I want him in Alabama.

    I case you haven’t got the memo–we do fight for space. Hate SLS all you want—we punched it through.

    Come to Alabama, Elon.

    We will make Mobile all yours.

  • Boca Chica was a great spot to choose for launches.
    It is directly on the coast. Any problems and things land in the water.

    Boca Chica (Starbase’s latitude of +25° 58′ 59″) is also basically the southernmost non-built-up area on the American eastward-facing coast available in the continental U.S. for a launch site – which means it takes maximum fuel-saving advantage of the earth’s rotation. Cape Canaveral’s (lighthouse’s) latitude is +28° 27′ 36″ – 2-1/2° north latitude greater than Starbase, while +26° latitude elsewhere in Florida puts one just south of Fort Lauderdale – not exactly available real estate.

  • sippin bourbon

    State politics plays a role here also. FL and to a lesser CA have long held roles as launch sites. TX got NASAs mission control because of LBJ. It was all about money. McGregor and White Sands, NM were military sites.

    I suggest that it still is. The idea that a new completely commercial space operation could start in TX and raise the overall political power of the State bothers the left. They own CA, and FL is competitive. But TX has been historically conservative.

    I worked with a sales rep who’s market sector was manufacturing in Central and South TX in the early 2000s. The turn over for his job was high, because it was a thin market. It is slightly better today. But a commercial boom in South TX could do wonders. The population is growing. After the next census, it will increase electorally speaking.

    All this plays a small role in trying to get SpaceX out of TX.

  • David M. Cook

    What we need are teams of reporters with cameras & microphones, shoving them into the faces of the FWS officials, and asking the RIGHT questions, like “why are you delaying this flight?” and “is the Biden adminstration telling you to delay this flight?”. Give all of the dems the same treatment; make them answer the questions ON CAMERA, then broadcast their reponses. Sunshine is a great disinfectant!

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