Capitalism in space: Faced with regulatory delays caused by the Biden administration that are preventing further Starship launches from Boca Chica, SpaceX has accelerated construction of a new Starship launchpad at its facility in Florida.
Compared to SpaceX’s Starbase tower assembly [in Boca Chica], Florida Starship work appears to be proceeding at a similar pace. SpaceX began assembling the fourth Florida tower section about 30 days after starting the first, while Starbase took about 25 days to reach the same point. However, SpaceX does appear to be taking a slightly different approach for Pad 39A. On top of tower section assembly, SpaceX is constructing an extra four sets of the small concrete foundations and steel frames each tower section is assembled on, implying that Starship’s Florida launch tower could be almost entirely prefabricated before SpaceX begins to combine those sections.
Meanwhile, Boca Chica remains blocked. While the FAA says it will issue approval of its environment reassessment by the end of this month, SpaceX would be foolish to believe this. It has become very clear that the Biden administration has so far allowed the federal bureaucracy free rein to obstruct SpaceX. For the company to think things will suddenly change now is to be living a fantasy. It must move forward to satisfy its investors.
Worsening the situation in Texas was the decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to suspend the permit process on a request by SpaceX to expand its Boca Chica facility. It appears SpaceX failed to provide the Corps some required information, possibility because the company sees no reason now to complete this expansion if the Biden administration is going to ban Starship launches from Texas.
Faced with this political situation, Texas governor Greg Abbott yesterday claimed he is fighting the stonewalling by the Biden administration, but provide no specifics:
“What I am going to do if Biden interferes with the ability of SpaceX to launch from Boca Chica; I am going to be working every step of the way to make sure that they are going to be able to launch from Boca Chica. We heard the vision from Mr. Patel himself about what they are working on and our job is to make sure they are able to achieve their vision. And I have worked with Elon Musk very closely with regard to Tesla and the Giga factory in Austin, Texas. And we will be working with him very closely, every step of the way in Boca Chica for the future of SpaceX. We want that future and that vision to come from Boca Chica, from Brownsville, Texas.”
Allow me to translate this political blather into plain English: “I can’t or won’t do anything, but I am now going to make a superficial claim of action so my Texas constituents won’t get angry at me.”
It appears more and more that the first orbital test flight of Starship will take place in Florida, not Texas. And if so, it will be delayed for at least another six months because of this government interference.