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FAA now taking public comments on the licensing of SpaceX to launch Starship/Superheavy from Boca Chica

Capitalism in space: The FAA today announced by email that it is now taking public comments on the “Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA)” it requires from SpaceX before it can issue a launch license at Boca Chica, Texas for Starship/Superheavy orbital launches.

From the email:

The FAA invites interested agencies, organizations, Native American tribes, and members of the public to submit comments on all aspects of the Draft PEA. Public comments are due on Monday, October 18, 2021. Comments or questions on the Draft PEA can be addressed to Ms. Stacey Zee, SpaceX PEA, c/o ICF, 9300 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA 22031. Comments may also be submitted by email to Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold from public review your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

The FAA will also hold two public hearings on October 6th and 7th, though it provided no information yet on where those hearings will be held.

This announcement means that the Starship/Superheavy orbital test flight cannot occur any earlier than October 18, 2021, and will actually occur at least several weeks or months later, based on the schedule outlined on slide 32 of this FAA presentation [pdf]. Once the 30-day public comment period ends the FAA must then hold “an industry workshop” reviewing the comments and then issue an update of the PEA, or a rejection of it.

Though the chances of the FAA rejecting SpaceX’s permit are practically nil, I fully expect this process to be slow-walked by the FAA under orders of the Biden administration in order to do whatever it can to prevent this orbital flight occurring before SLS’s first launch, now expected in early ’22.

I hope I am wrong, and that the FAA surprises me. We can only wait and see.

Update: If you think I am crazy thinking that the politics of the Biden administration will cause a slowdown in the FAA’s process, just read this story about the FAA suddenly imposing flight restrictions at the southern border to block drone flights by media outlets that show the illegal immigrant crisis there.

“We’ve learned that the FAA just implemented a two week TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) over the international bridge in Del Rio, TX, meaning we can no longer fly our FOX drone over it to show images of the thousands of migrants,” Fox News reporter Bill Melugin tweeted. “FAA says ‘special security reason.’”

Fox’s report resulted in a quick lifting of this flight restriction on their drone, but the action by the Biden administration shows that it is quite willing to interfere with normal aviation regulations for its own political reasons.

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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.

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  • Jeff Wright

    I look for Greens, NIMBY housewives, flat earthers and other assorted losers to turn this into a real production. Now the Spooks behind Azorian had Hughes back. I say Boca Chica be Area 52-with unsavory types having the backs of their skulls introduced to rifle butts.

  • David Eastman

    I view the 30 day comment period as a promising sign, that’s the minimum and usual period, but they could have gone up to 90 days.

    For what it’s worth NASA HLS, while they’re not currently allowed to directly work with SpaceX, has of course been keeping up with matters to the extent that they’re able to. The word of mouth “well informed, but not insider” level prediction from them has been for the Starship 4/Booster 20 orbital launch attempt to happen in November.

  • Robert Pratt

    Once a space port is built and licensed even for one launch it seems that there should be no more reviews or permits needed. Otherwise, why build a spaceport? It would be like having an airport at which one would need new permits every time a plan took off or landed.
    I get it that the much bigger rocket, etc. has to be approved but does one really think it will be a one and done deal? Nope, I bet there will be constant reappraisals, forcing one to beg bureaucrats for permission, each time there is even the slightest change or maybe with no changes.
    A sure way to freeze capital out of funding private spaceports will be to make their usage uncertain through regulation.

  • Jeff Wright

    Thus my Area 52 suggestion. Some local regulator crosses a line in Groom Lake-he gets capped same as anyone else. That’s how you take care of a problem.

  • Col Beausabre

    “The FAA invites interested agencies, organizations, Native American tribes, and members of the public”

    Aren’t “tribes” organizations and aren’t American Indians “members of the public”? Why single them out especially?

  • Jeff Wright

    They are hoping for a repeat of the telescope hating Hawaiians. Ouamuamua and Lanikea were appeasement butter ups. Scope builders on the Moon will be of true first nation heritage-wiping out no mammoths either. Musk could take credit for off worlding ‘scopes-letting islanders get back to worshiping their rocks…

  • Steve Richter

    Can SpaceX relocate to another country? This is so infuriating.

  • Steve Richter: I am honestly getting tired of repeating this: SpaceX is a rocket company, and rockets are in essence missiles. There are many legal restrictions forbidding it from importing this technology out of the U.S. If Musk or the company tries, they will do themselves even greater harm, because they will give the government an excuse for squashing them hard.

  • I should add: This is our country. Shouldn’t we be taking action against such corrupt politicians and its bureaucracy?

    So tell me, have you voted for any Democrats lately? For Biden? Remember, it was Trump who worked to stop that bureaucracy from interfering with private enterprise.

  • D. Messier

    I doubt the mention of Native American tribes signifies anything. It’s likely standard legal language they put into notices. In any event any comments they submit will be considered with all the rest of them.

  • Col Beausabre

    D Mesier And WHY would it be “standard legal language”?

  • Frank Solomon

    ” . . . Though the chances of the FAA rejecting SpaceX’s permit are practically nil, I fully expect . . . the Biden administration . . . to do whatever it can to prevent this {Starship / Superheavy} orbital flight occurring before SLS’s first launch, now expected in early ’22 . . .”

    That assumes that SLS really will launch in early ’22. If SLS hits a delay, then the FAA can conveniently invent [convenient] delays for Starship, to compensate. IIRC, NASA promised a 2007 James Webb Telescope launch . . .

  • Steve Richter

    way OT, but check out this YouTube video which compares google street level views of the Russian city of Perm – 2011 and 2020.

    Got this from the Patrick Lang blog:

    Would certainly be ironic if Russia becomes the migration destination of working class Trump voters, after having been replaced and marginalized by their own country.

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