Starship stacked on Superheavy, September 5, 2023,
when Elon Musk said it was ready for launch
They’re coming for you next: While answering questions from reporters at a conference yesterday on when SpaceX might get its next Starship/Superheavy launch license, FAA acting chief Polly Trottenberg said she hoped that license will be awarded by October, but then slipped in one minor additional detail that had not previously mentioned or required:
SpaceX would still need a separate environmental approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before a launch. Trottenberg did not say how long that might take.
Not surprisingly, the story from Reuters buries this detail, spinning the story to make it seem that the FAA is eager to help SpaceX launch. Similarly, this NasaSpaceFlight.com story (a space news outlet which has also tried to spin things to make the delays appear the fault of SpaceX) fails to even mention this detail.
SpaceX is now destacking Starship from Superheavy (live stream here).
I predicted in the spring that intransigence from the federal bureaucracy, controlled by the Biden administration, would likely delay this launch well past August, and likely into next year. I also said I would be thrilled if my cynical prediction turned out to be wrong.
Sadly, it looks like that prediction will be correct, and in fact might have actually been conservative. Officials at Fish and Wildlife have strongly opposed SpaceX’s Boca Chica site, for what appear to be reasons related both to environmental activism and a political dislike of Musk. During the reassessment of the company’s environmental statement for the site, Fish & Wildlife objections were one of the main reasons the approval was delayed an extra six months (delays that I also predicted correctly).
It appears the Biden administration is now establishing new unprecedented protocols for any launch from Boca Chica. SpaceX must not only get permission from the FAA after detailed and never-before required investigations, it must also get permission from other agencies for each additional launch.
Expect delays to now be announced monthly, dribbling out slowly so as to boil the frog to death in a way the frog won’t notice. And the frog will be both SpaceX and the public. Worse, that boiling will likely be helped by many journalists, who either no longer have any skepticism of government and never question its actions, or are in enthusiastic league with it, eager to squelch Elon Musk and his company because of Musk’s public dissent from many Biden and Democratic Party policies.
As I wrote in December 2021, “This is America today, no longer free. Rather than you making the decision freely, as an American citizen, un-elected federal government officials now decide whether you can do anything, or not.”