Capitalism in space? New FAA documents suggest that government regulators are not happy with the rapid and spectacular development by SpaceX of its Super Heavy/Starship rocket at Boca Chica, Texas, and are eager to impose restrictions and delays.
The issue revolves around revisions to SpaceX’s original FAA approval for its work at Boca Chica because the company has switched from flying Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets to developing and flying Starship and Super Heavy. While the FAA has been cooperative in issuing the necessary revisions, other agencies have raised red flags.
But the most important document of the bunch is the written reevaluation signed by the FAA on May 22. The file spans 26 pages, was required for SpaceX to receive its suborbital launch license from the FAA on May 28, and incorporates concerns from state and federal environmental agencies.
In the reevaluation, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the US Fish and Wildlife Service took issue with several aspects of SpaceX’s plans and ongoing activities. Those criticisms targeted the “fluid nature” of the company’s construction projects, excessive road closures to Boca Chica Beach (which Brownsville locals prize), around-the-clock work that may affect nocturnal threatened or endangered species, prototype explosions, and sprawling wildfires the company has triggered.
The FAA responded to each concern in the document, ultimately determining “there are no significant environmental changes, and that all pertinent conditions and requirements of the prior approval have been met or will be met” with SpaceX’s suborbital test-flight plans.
However, SpaceX does not yet have the FAA’s go-ahead to launch any Starships to orbit from Boca Chica.
In its replies to concerns noted by other agencies — some of which call for a new EIS [environmental impact statement], which could take years to complete (an eternity in Musk time) — the agency repeatedly noted it is working with SpaceX to draft an “environmental review” of those plans.
Should Joe Biden and the power-hungry and controlling Democrats take control of the executive branch of the federal government, expect the FAA’s desire to help SpaceX to quickly end.
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