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Planned Starhopper test shuts down Boca Chica

SpaceX’s planned next hop of its Starhopper test vehicle is apparently forcing local residents from their homes, as well as threatening damage to buildings as much as two miles away.

Those residents live in tiny Boca Chica Village, Texas, which sits less than 2 miles (3 km) from a SpaceX-operated launch site near the US-Mexico border along the Gulf Coast. SpaceX’s test of the so-called “Starhopper”—a prototype of a reusable shuttle meant for human transit—may well create an “overpressure event” capable of breaking glass in buildings nearby. The police-delivered warnings advise residents to, at a minimum, exit their homes when they hear police sirens around the 4pm launch window.

Comments posted under the Brownsville Herald article include, “Doesn’t sound good to me that they have to evacuate their homes all because Space X is testing” and “I think spacex should be prepared to pay for the window replacements.”

The test is also forcing the closure of roads required by residents to access or leave their neighborhoods.

It seems that SpaceX’s decision to conduct their Starhopper tests in Boca Chica rather than at their McGregor, Texas, engine test facility might have been a mistake. Unlike Boca Chica, McGregor is a much larger facility, which means tests are farther away from local residences. While Boca Chica gives SpaceX great visibility (hence some great publicity) for Starhopper, it appears to also be causing some bad press because of these negative impacts on the local community.

Either way, expect news of Starhopper’s biggest hop in the next day or so.

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  • geoffc

    Reading the NSF forums, where a couple of the very few remaining residents post, it seems that they plan on staying. The cops are not forcing anyone out. It is just a precautionary warning that the FAA is requiring for the test.

  • David

    After they blew up their F9 hopper in a test at McGregor, their permission to do flight testing there was pulled, do that’s not an option.

  • David: This I had not known. Do you have a source?

  • David

    ‘Lost” is perhaps an overstatement. Their existing FAA license expired, and they have not applied for a new one. I’ve seen it stated that they were quietly told that a new permit application would not be endorsed by the local community or county officials.

  • mpthompson

    It is my understanding that there is only a handful (ie. less than 10) permanent residents left in the area that have not yet been bought out by SpaceX. Among the few are a number of SpaceX fans who love the spectacle and invite other SpaceX fans to their homes to watch the tests from their roofs. Those who have kept their home in Boca Chica Village are probably looking to make a small fortune via AirBnB if SpaceX continues to with Starship development there.

  • mpthompson

    BTW, reading the article, the reporting is based on selectively pulling comments from the original Brownsville Herald article. Pretty shabby reporting that probably doesn’t reflect the attitudes of the people that actually received the warning notice.

  • Diane Wilson

    This will probably be StarHopper’s last hop. The StarShip prototypes are apparently far enough along that they will be used for the first multi-engine tests. Also, the engine mounts for the hopper are three-in-a-row, but Starship will use a triangular arrangement, so Starship will be the better test vehicle.

  • David S

    I live 10 miles due west of McGregor, South Mountain area. Heard a test about 10 days ago.

  • Diane Wilson

    They still test engines, and do full-run static fires for completed first stages at McGregor. But no hops.

    Also, from NSF, FAA approval for hop is official now. 150 meters max altitude.

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