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FAA again delays decision on environmental reassessment of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility

Surprise, surprise! According to an FAA email sent out today, the agency has once again, for the fifth time, delayed its decision on the environmental reassessment of SpaceX’s Boca Chica Starship launch site.

From the email:

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is updating the release date for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) on the Federal Infrastructure Permitting Dashboard (Permitting Dashboard) and project website. The FAA plans to issue the Final PEA on April 29th. The planned April 29, 2022 release date will allow the FAA to review the Final PEA, including responses to comments, and complete consultation and coordination with agencies at the local, State, and Federal level. All consultations must be complete before the FAA can issue the Final PEA.

This date is now listed on the FAA’s SpaceX-Starship webpage. Nor is the decision a surprise. Expect the FAA to continue this charade month-to-month until after the November election, when the Biden administration will then feel free to block SpaceX’s effort in Boca Chica completely.

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  • Skunk Bucket

    And they’re going to KEEP delaying it, at least until after SLS has flown. (And yes, maybe they’re in such a snit about Elon not bowing to them that it will never happen at all.)

  • My opinion is that the goal is to completely shut down development of Starship/Superheavy because SpaceX is out competing Old Space. Shut down Bocha Chica and make development in Florida near impossible with launch licensing roadblocks and environmental issues. Old Space are a bunch of Luddites.

  • pawn

    I wonder if Vegas has odds on whether SLS makes it to orbit? I’d give it even odds right now but for no good reason. I think the odds are much better for Starship even as an experimental vehicle.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Aren’t they just signaling all the environmentalists trying to hold this up to just take their time and there’s nothing they can do but wait until everyone’s happy… which will be never?

  • David K

    My prediction is that this will be given the green light on January 21st 2025 when the next Republican president is sworn into office.

    I like Gwynne Shotwell for president, but there are many other qualified candidates.

    That said, I would love to be proven wrong and see some competence in the current administration.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Musk is a man with a mission. I suspect he has been contacted by the Biden junta already, and told them: “As the world’s biggest EV maker and the world’s biggest rocket maker…. let me fly in May and I will graciously acknowledge your support. Otherwise Trump and I will destroy you and your party. You think HE’s crazy? Here – hold my beer.”

  • sippin_bourbon

    Doesn’t the current license expire anyway at the end of May? Are they trying to run out the clock?

  • Jason Lewis

    So Starship is allowed to launch there as long as it’s not on a booster? This whole FAA environmental red tape is about the booster?

  • Jason Lewis: No, this is not about Starship only.

    When SpaceX first got its environmental approvals for Boca Chica years ago, it was for a launch site for Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy. Because the company wants to now launch Starship/Superheavy there, those approvals need to be reassessed.

    When Trump was president, this whole process was proceeding quickly. The FAA reviewed the data, and had quickly concluded that a spaceport is no threat to the environment, as the government has concluded many times before in many places, based on more than a half century of evidence at Cape Canaveral and elsewhere. If anything, spaceports help endangered wildlife, because they stop development across a large swath of land.

    Thus, in the fall of ’21 the FAA released its draft approval of that environmental assessment. It still needed to go through public comment, and several public hearings (which it has), but it was then expected to be approved by December, at the latest.

    However, it appears the Biden administration likes regulation and restricting private enterprise, so its leadership has apparently decided to make this process more odious. The result has been repeated delays, and a willingness to let bureaucrats in NOAA and Fish & Wildlife impose their veto on the approval.

    I first predicted the Biden administration would act to block SpaceX back in October ’21, writing:

    Thus, while SpaceX is ready to go, our lumbering, oppressive government is not. As I’ve written before, I fully expect there to be pressure from the Biden administration and NASA to slow walk that government approval so that Starship does not launch before February 2022, when SLS is now scheduled for its first launch. Having SpaceX get its heavy lift rocket into orbit before NASA would be very embarrassing, considering that SpaceX has spent about a third the time and about a tenth the money getting it done.

    I was only wrong about two things. First, I thought the effort to delay SpaceX was to have SLS launch first. I now believe the effort is more in line with the normal oppressive effort of the Washington bureaucracy to simply flex its muscles against free Americans, in this case Elon Musk. Very petty, very evil, and very obvious.

    Second, I was wrong about how much the Biden administration and the Washington swamp would delays things. It now appears the goal is to block this project entirely. Politically that will be a disaster for the local Democrats in Texas, so I believe the Biden administration is simply stalling month to month until after the November elections, after which they will proceed to reject the reassessment, forcing a multi-year delay as a new enviromental impact statement will have to be written and approved.

    I continue to hope I am wrong. Sadly, my pessimistic predictions so far in this matter have been on the money, far too often for my tastes.

  • MDN

    It will be interesting to see what happens if they deny Musk. As Van Dune notes he is on a mission, and given the near unanimous screeching to “make Russia pay” coming out of Washington of late his anxiety to establish a colony on Mars before we end ourselves is likely amplified.

    The progressives and Ds risk much if they keep playing this game. Musk is smarter than they are and has the resources and profile to get his message out, and it will be to their detriment if he feels pressed to play hardball. He is uncancellable, and if he throws in with DJT as Van Dune predicts he will sway a large enough block of the youth and techno world away from the idiocrocy they now follow, and the democratic party will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

    MHO anyway : )

  • Bob

    On a not unrelated topic, Musk is upset with Twitter and their censoring of conservatives. He’s making noises about starting a new company. He also has the resources to do a hostile takeover of Twitter. it would be a great pulpit for him (and President Trump again) to blast the Democrats.

  • Jeff Wright

    I hope he does take over Twitter

  • Daniel Kaczynski

    BillB wrote: “My opinion is that the goal is to completely shut down development of Starship/Superheavy
    because SpaceX is out competing Old Space.”

    I fear the problem may be far worse than that. It seems to me that the Chicom would not want SpaceX
    to out compete THEM. And of course, whatever Zhi Jin Ping, the first Emperor of the United States of
    America says, the wholly bought “let’s go Brandon” administration will do for their Emperor Zhi.

  • Mike Puckett

    Do you know how you get Elon Musk buying Twitter and starting Elon PAC?

    This is how you get Elon buying Twitter and starting Elon PAC!

    Strike him down and he will return a thousand times stronger.

    He really should start both anyway. The power inherent in the Sword of Damoclese is that it hangs, not that if falls.

    I doubt the Democrats want Musk throwing tens of billions of dollars onto the dumpster fire the next two elections are going to represent for them anyways,

  • Ray Van Dune

    What will happen when the biggest EV producer in the world and the biggest rocket producer in the world also becomes the biggest power storage and robot producer in the world… and decides to clean up Earth before going to Mars? I hope he has good security!

  • Star Bird

    They will just keep on dragging their feet and delays delays delays that,s the way they do it under the Democrats

  • Mike Puckett

    …and now Elon actually is buying Twitter.

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