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Surprise! FAA delays SpaceX approval at Boca Chica another month

As I have been predicting now for months, the FAA today announced that it is once again delaying approval of its environmental reassessment of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility one more month, to May 31, 2022.

This is the fifth time since December that the FAA has delayed the release of the environmental assessment. When the first delay was announced in December 2021, I predicted that this stone-walling by the government will likely continue for many months, and delay the first orbital launch of Starship “until the latter half of ’22, if then.”

Since then it has become very clear that the other federal bureaucracies at NOAA and Fish & Wildlife which must sign off on the approval are hostile to Elon Musk, SpaceX, and Starship, and are acting to block this approval, with this stone-walling having the unstated support of the Biden administration. When the third delay was announced at the end of February, I predicted no approval would ever occur, that the Biden administration wants to reject the reassessment and force the issuance of a new environmental impact statement, a process that could take years. To do this before the November election however will cost votes, so the administration would instead delay the approval month by month until November.

This prediction has been dead on right, unfortunately. Expect more month-by-month delays until November, when the Biden administration will then announce — conveniently just after the election — the need for a new impact statement requiring years of study.

The one hope to stop this government intransigence will be a complete wipe-out of the Democratic Party in Congress in those November elections. A strong Republican Congress with large majorities in both houses could quickly force the Biden administration to back down on many issues, including this effort to shut SpaceX down in Texas.

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  • James Crockford

    Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA no longer the hold up.
    Section 106 consultation now has current target date of 05/06/2022


  • Jeff Wright

    The mid-term fix isn’t enough. Boca needs to be like Vatican City and free from regs as Disney’s true heir. I wish they could have met.

  • Col Beausabre

    I’m reminded of Captain Renault in Casablanca, “I’m shocked ! Shocked !”

  • Shallow Minded Reader

    “Elections have consequences. Stolen elections have disastrous consequences.” – S. Bannon

  • sippin_bourbon

    “Your winnings, Sir”

    I wonder what investors and politicians are betting on SpaceX having to relocate it all to Florida.

  • Rod

    I think that someone in the Administration should wise up. Someone should say: “Getting that monster rocket to fly to orbit and return is going to take an immense amount of focus from very talented people. We should let them proceed. The longer Elon twiddles his thumbs, his focus will turn elsewhere. We should let him play with his toys in his sandbox…so that he keeps out of our sandbox.”

  • Ray Van Dune

    You know, there must be SOMETHING the Feds are needing an approval to build or expand on in Texas, right? Especially in a Dem county…

  • Steve Richter

    Very worried that republican politicians are frankly too stupid to govern effectively, let alone win the mid term elections. There are no national republican politicians making a political issue out of the Biden admin blocking the work of SpaceX on this next gen rocket system. Heck, make a big deal that it is Hispanic construction workers in Brownsville who being denied the opportunity to proudly complete a world class space port on the Gulf coast. Mock the Biden admin for its historically low approval ratings and suggest that the sight of ever improving monthly launches from Boca would make the country proud and possibly improve Biden’s popularity.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Rod’s observation is one of the most interesting comments that I have seen on any site regarding the connection between Twitter and SpaceX Starship dreams. I hope someone in our disagreeable federal establishment reads it and decides it is point on.

    I still mourn that Texas doesn’t fight back harder against the Federals…….on several fronts.

  • Doubting Thomas

    James – I agree Fish & Wildlife and NOAA are no longer holding things up but we don’t know what they said. This could cause a complete reset for a new environmental paperwork that could take years.

  • sippin_bourbon

    My cynical take is that the feds need/want more time. They want more time to set up new regulatory and tax structures on what the commercial sector can do once they get the kind of access the Starship may provide.

    As always they want their piece of the pie and a hand on the reins. If they do not have either at the start, they will forever be playing catch-up, and they know it.

    Again, my cynical opinion.

  • pzatchok

    Why these environmentalists not protesting when Disney expands in its 25 thousand swamp acres?

    Why are they not demanding NASA do the same as Space X?

  • Col Beausabre

    Ref Twitter Meltdown. Saw an article on a national journal’s website that compared Musk buying Twitter to Putin invading Ukraine. I am not making this up. This is not from the Onion. This is reality to some people who are allowed to wander the streets unsupervised and unmedicated

  • sippin_bourbon

    Maybe Texas needs to grant SpaceX it’s own version of the Reedy Creek Improvement act in Boca Chica.

    Actually I am not a fan of political carve outs, but if it helps them with the Feds, I am in favor.

    My only proviso is that is comes with an expiration date.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Sippin – Sadly I don’t think the Gov. of Texas is that clever or that motivated. I once thought that he was a Chamber of Commerce Republican so that he would see the Boca Chica SpaceX problem as an antibusiness issue, But 4 letters later, I got nothing but form letters and appeals for money.

  • Steve Richter

    just to push back on Elon a bit … SpaceX is not making much of a case for itself to the public regarding Starship and Boca. There is no technical explanation on YouTube of why Brownsville was chosen for Starbase. Elon is the only person from SpaceX who speaks to the public, has a twitter account. And Elon himself has not commented on Twitter about the FAA approval process.

    The consensus on Space Twitter is that, sure the FAA delays are frustrating, but SpaceX is not yet ready to launch Starship on Super Heavy. So, space twitter says, it is not like the FAA is actually stopping SpaceX from launching. This is obviously not true since SpaceX had a regular cadence of launches leading up to the launch ban after SN15. Just that SpaceX provides no information on where they are with the Starship program, what they want to do next.

  • Max

    Elon spent how much to buy Twitter? He could’ve bought all of Congress for 1/10 of that amount!
    Then he not only could have all his permits approved… He could’ve been given an interest free $40 billion loan to buy Twitter and a couple of news networks with somebody else’s money!
    Look how they’re throwing money at the most corrupt government in Europe, South Russia…(Ukraine, but we all know none of the money will actually make it pass the offshore accounts)
    I’m mostly kidding, but look at how much damage a few million dollars does from George Soros or Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates… if big money can corrupt our government, can money persuade people with no ethics to be good? To do the right thing? Even if it’s against their nature?
    (Power does not corrupt so much as it attracts the corruptible)

    Elon cannot take his company out of the United States, but the United States owns military bases all over the world where he can lease space for his rockets.
    Guantánamo for example, or near Okinawa Japan. There’s even an old base in the Philippines near a volcano. There’s atolls throughout the South sea in international waters unclaimed by any government. (except maybe China, they claim everything)

    Here’s a light hearted funny by the Babylon bee on liberals dealing with a mask free world…
    Maskaholics Anonymous

  • Max

    SpaceX: A massive Raptor V2 shipment brings us closer to Starship’s first orbital flight
    The fully reusable Starship could reach orbit as soon as next month.
    Musk is also raising his prices because of inflation.

  • sippin_bourbon

    “And Elon himself has not commented on Twitter about the FAA approval process.”

    The last time he commented on FAA processes he got a lot of flack.
    He maybe choosing to be unusually diplomatic here.

  • Star Bird

    If they had the FAA buricrats back then Limburg would never been allowed to take off for Paris at the time they would have delayed him for a year or more Earhart the same thing

  • Star Bird

    If they had the FAA Buricrats back then Limburg would never had been allowed to take off on time they would have delayed him while they checked our old maps

  • Steve Richter

    “…. He maybe choosing to be unusually diplomatic here. …”

    my hope is he has been told by NASA and the Space Force that he will get approval. Just lay low while they work behind the scenes. First of all, Elon has the money and is willing to spend it on space. For ambitious people in government who want to transition to commercial space, there has to be a big incentive to not be seen as against SpaceX.

    Another thing going for SpaceX is the US military needs the capabilities SpaceX has to offer. What if Russia widens its war not with nukes, but by attacking US spy satellites? We have to both be able to both get replacements into orbit very quickly. And, if possible, clean up the mess. Maybe that is far fetched.

    Just thinking there are a lot of government players who can benefit from helping SpaceX get FAA approval.

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