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Environmentalists cheer FAA blocking of Starship test flight

Two Starship prototypes now on launchpads
Two Starships are better than one!

They’re coming for you next: It appears the environmentalist movement is thrilled that the FAA and the Biden administration blocked last week’s test flight of SpaceX’s ninth prototype of Starship.

It also appears they are gunning to end Starship entirely, and might now have the right people in charge to get it done.

Jim Chapman, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, says it is unusual for a federal regulatory agency to allow a company to conduct tests prior to completion of an environmental review and licenses issued.

He and other environmentalists have repeatedly expressed concerns to Border Report of what they say is a lack of oversight by the FAA on this site. But Friday’s actions gave Chapman some hope. “The fact that the FAA is going by the book for a change is a good development,” Chapman said. “They’re following the law by doing that and they’re supposed to do the environmental evaluation before they issue new licenses and up until now they kind of haven’t been doing that.”

The irony here is that these environmentalists are claiming that SpaceX’s rocket facility at Boca Chica will threaten the local beach wildlife, when we have more than a half century of evidence from Cape Canaveral that a rocket launch facility does the exact opposite. When the federal government established its Florida spaceport it reserved vast tracts around it for safety, but also reserved that land as a wildlife preserve. The result has been that the beach wildlife at Cape Canaveral has thrived, and been protected.

What these environmentalist really want to do is prevent SpaceX from flying, merely because they hate the development of new technology and the advancement of human capabilities. The environmental movement is routinely against anything new, and has been for decades.

With the Democrats controlling Congress and the White House, their allies are now in power. I would not at all be surprised if the FAA’s action last week is also tied to this environmental review. If so, expect future test flights at Boca Chica to be further delayed and stretched out.

Meanwhile, this past weekend SpaceX rolled out its tenth Starship prototype, placing it on a second launchpad right next to prototype #9, as shown by the screen capture above from the LabPadre 24/7 live feed this morning. The company sure is making it clear that the only reason they have been stalled is the government.

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  • Phill O

    Easy to move to a more hospitable country. When they find it, let me know.

  • wayne

    sarcasm alert:
    “Who could possibly have seen this coming?”

  • wayne

    maybe the environmentalists, should move to Venus and solve that ‘climate-problem,’ and we’ll all stay here and watch weekly launches with killer video!
    (In the Alternate Universe, they might already have been rendered off-world, to a mining colony, to dig di-lithium, by hand.)

  • Phill O



  • Gary

    They can’t dpeed up SLS, so why not slow down Starship. They can also punish innovation by eliminating SpaceX from the moon lander competition.

  • Tom Billings

    “What these environmentalists really want to do is prevent SpaceX from flying, merely because they hate the development of new technology and the advancement of human capabilities. ”

    While the entire sentence is still true, the word “merely” is inappropriate. The people now in charge in D.C. are not happy with alternatives to their program of control. They recognize that continuing success by SpaceX will allow *many* alternatives that they cannot control.

    They are as unhappy with this growth of alternatives to their power as were Confucian Scholar/Officials with merchants opening up new market networks their hierarchy didn’t control. That is what happened when China’s Ming Dynasty banned all 3-masted ships, and heavily regulated 2-masted ships. It also cut China off from the rest of the world, just as this policy is aimed at cutting non-governmental spaceflight off from the rest of the Solar System. SpaceX needs to get its offshore flight platforms operational ASAP!

  • mrsizer

    Reminds me of a novel about a guy building a sky hook. Congress said, “too dangerous” so he said, “fine, it will not be over the US.”

    While I find this unfortunate, preferring the US lead the way, it is certainly not insurmountable. Makes one wonder about the barges and oil rigs SpaceX has been using and buying. Or not.

  • Edward

    From the article: “While SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was Tweeting his displeasure over the Federal Aviation Administration preventing a test launch of a controversial rocket, …

    Funny how this was not a controversial rocket just last week.

    The article gives misleading statements, such as: “Jim Chapman, president of the nonprofit Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, says it is unusual for a federal regulatory agency to allow a company to conduct tests prior to completion of an environmental review and licenses issued.

    Later in the article, another statement tells us that everything that the FAA wanted was supplied: “The letter also noted that at any time during the environmental review, the FAA can upgrade to an EIS if they find cause to do so.

    Chapman may want the more stringent Environmental Impact Statement, but he is not running things.

    Shouldn’t he also be protesting SLS, which not only will launch inside another wildlife refuge, but has solid rocket boosters, which pollute much more than a methane-fueled rocket.

    What I really want to know is how the environmentalists think we are going to get space-based solar power if we can’t get large amounts of mass into orbit at low cost? Space-based solar power moves all the pollution from Gaia to … nowhere. Even the solar panels can be manufactured in space, preventing even that much Earthly pollution.

    These environmentalist, if they are environmentalists, are shortsighted.

  • Reminds me of another place where development was curbed and spontaneously turned into a de facto nature preserve …

    … Times Beach, MO.

    Like the BP oil spill, the ability of nature to heal is beyond the comprehension of short-sighted environmental zealots, who subordinate actual progress to their intolerant, fundamentalist doctrines.

  • Richard

    And where are the Republicans in all this? You’d think they would at least say something.

  • Michael G. Gallagher

    To Tom,

    I remember that period in Chinese history well since I had to study it while in grad school back in the 1980s. After a few decades of sabotage by the Confucian scholar-class, China’s maritime capacity had been almost completely destroyed and people said “There was not an inch of planking on the sea.” The Ming also made the teaching of Chinese to foreigners a capital offense.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Some Washington Post Reporter named Davenport tweeted at 11:15 am today February 1st: “Now hearing the FAA could approve the SpaceX mod to its license for SN9 as early as today, possibly ‘within the next couple of hours’. Could see Starship fly as soon as tomorrow (Tuesday February 2nd).” I am not on Twitter so a friend just texted this to me.

    Anybody hear anything similar or updated info? Surprised that this hasn’t made a bigger splash if true. WAPO noted for screwing these kinds of things up.

    Same friend texted: “I guess Elon paid his VIG to Hunter”

  • wayne

    –i recently re-watched all the Star Trek episodes (original to enterprise) and I would put forth the proposition: in the Future, a surprisingly large amount of mining, is done manually. It’s a weird theme and not 100%, but it’s noticeable..

  • wayne: Somewhere on youtube is a truly hilarious video that makes fun of Star Trek’s vision of mining in the future, all done by hand.

  • Curious if Elon Musk is considering selling, for the best offer (freedom of operation, with some cash and considerations), a complete, fully functional, space launch company. If Mexico was interested, they wouldn’t even have to move very far.

    Sure, moving that sort of enterprise is difficult and complex, but the Soviets (Russians), pulled off a much larger operation during an active global war. And SpaceX runs a lean operation for what they do.

    Enough. Pick up the toys and play in a more appreciative environment.

  • Jeff

    FAA approval granted. (copied tweet from NSF)

    Christian Davenport
    Confirmed: The FAA late last night granted SpaceX its launch license modification for the SN9 Starship flight. It appears from reports on the ground that they are proceeding with a launch attempt today.
    6:32 AM · Feb 2, 2021

  • Cornfed

    “What these environmentalist really want to do is prevent SpaceX from flying, merely because they hate the development of new technology and the advancement of human capabilities. The environmental movement is routinely against anything new, and has been for decades.”

    Yep. Been doin’ that for decades. Pesticides, nuclear energy, electrical lines, wireless technology…you name it. They are nothing more than recycled Luddites.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Well, actually…

    Both SpaceX and the FAA have been tight lipped about this probe, right up to today. I would wager very few even knew it was happening, or what the reasons were.

    Obviously, the environmentalists were also in the dark :)

    And now we return to our regularly schedule flight tests.

  • Trent: You realize you linked to the very article I am commenting on?

  • wayne

    Mr. Z.,
    going tangential briefly
    –hilarious! As someone who has done that [ref Trent] before, (and probably more than once) for me alone it’s part laziness and part having to click away from your site.

    NASA history— as an agency, do they have to comply with the Clean Air Act, how does that all work? What role does the EPA play in all this?

  • wayne: To your question, the EPA’s role was significantly neutered during the Trump administration. Expect Biden’s administration to work hard to return it to its previous full tyrannical mode. At that point it will begin to impact these flights.

    Time is the key. The faster SpaceX can move and get things done, the harder it will be stop it. Once they have demonstrated successful flights, it will be politically difficult to shut them down, though with this Democratic Party crew I would not assume anything.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Mr. Z:


    The link i posted is from Joey Roulette reporting on The Verge, and your link is from Sandra Sanchez on Border Report?

    In any case, looks like we’re within a couple hours of liftoff. Boca Chica is clear, pad is clear and vehicle checks are in progress/complete. Propellant loading expected shortly!

  • Trent: I owe you an apology. I had read the Verge story as well, and choose the Border Report article to link to, as it nicely reveals the anti-technology perspective of the environmental movement.

    Thus, when you linked to the Verge story I had forgotten that though I had read it, I hadn’t linked to it. Mea culpa.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    Mr. Z:

    No worries. :)

    Both articles demonstrate nicely the blanket authority petty bureacracies have over innovation and progress.

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