The Kafkaesque Interior Department
They’re coming for you next: In an email today, the FAA confirmed what I had reported yesterday, that though it hopes to issue a launch license for the next orbital test flight of SpaceX’s Starship/Superheavy rocket by the end of October, no license will be issued until Fish & Wildlife in the Interior Department agrees.
Before it is authorized to conduct a second Starship/Super Heavy launch, SpaceX must obtain a modified license from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental, and other regulatory requirements. As part of that license application determination process, the FAA will review new environmental information, including changes related to the launch pad, as well as other proposed vehicle and flight modifications.
The FAA will complete a Written Reevaluation (WR) to the 2022 Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) evaluating the new environmental information, including Endangered Species Act consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. If the FAA determines through the WR process that the contents of the PEA do not remain valid in light of the changes proposed for Flight 2, additional environmental review will be required. Accordingly, the FAA has not authorized SpaceX’s proposed Flight 2. [emphasis mine]
Tragically, my April prediction is coming true. This launch is almost certainly not going to occur before November, and will almost certainly be delayed until next year.
Note again that until the Biden administration, SpaceX was not required to get a detailed environmental reassessement after every Boca Chica test launch. Fish & Wildlife was not involved, as it shouldn’t be. SpaceX made its engineering investigation, the FAA reviewed it quickly, and the company launched again, at a pace of almost one test launch a month, with almost every launch resulting in a crash landing or an explosion.
Under the Biden administration the rules suddenly changed. Now, all launches are environmental concerns, even though we have empirical data for more than seventy years at Cape Canaveral that rocket launches not only do no harm to wildlife, they allow it to thrive because the spaceport creates large zones where nothing can be developed.
In other words, the Biden administration is playing a raw and cruel political game, designed to kill Starship/Superheavy. And it is succeeding, because it will be impossible to develop this rocket on time for its investors and NASA at a pace of only one test launch per year.
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