McAllen, Texas (Border report) – The Federal Aviation Administration has postponed for another month the release of an environmental review on SpaceX, which is developing its Starship / Super Heavy launch vehicle in hopes of a one-day launch from South Texas to Mars.
On Monday, the FAA announced that the agency’s final program environmental assessment (PEA) for the project – and how it affects the environment around Boca Chico Beach – would not be released until March 28. .
But the delay came as no surprise after SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk visited the Rio Grande Valley last week and told the crowd he was awaiting agency approval in March.
“We don’t have a clear idea of the FAA,” Musk said. “We have received approximate indications that there may be approval in March.”
Musk rarely appeared in public on Thursday night under a prototype of the massive Starship missile system where he spoke in front of hundreds for over an hour to explain the company’s missionthe reason for building a launch pad in South Texas, just miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
He called the starship a “breakthrough of the Holy Grail” and said its development would give the world a “fast and fully reusable rocket system” capable of transporting passengers and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond.
“Why are we doing this? Pretty epic. What deep meaning is behind this? Why build a giant reusable rocket? Why make life multiplanetary. Well, I think it’s just an incredibly important thing for the future of life itself, ”Musk told the joyful crowd.
But he acknowledged that despite more than 100 tests of accelerators, they have a lot of work to do to make the 164-foot-tall rocket with 33 Raptor engines and capable of dragging 100 tons into space and fully operational.
“I’m incredibly proud of the SpaceX team and all the support we’ve got from Cameron County, Brownsville, South Padre,” said Musk of the launch site, which he called the Texas Star Base, less than a mile from the Gulf of Mexico. .
Musk said they chose this relatively isolated location because it is one of the southernmost points in the United States to test what would be the largest flying object of its kind.
Musk said there are “merger factors” that contribute to bringing Starship into orbit.
He said this includes running east to get “help from the Earth’s rotation”. And he said that “the closer to the Earth’s equator, the greater the push.” And they needed “good clean territory”, relatively uninhabited.
“It’s mostly here and Cape Canaveral or Cape Kennedy” in Florida, he said.
But not everyone is convinced.
Environmentalists in the Rio Grande Valley are concerned that the region is suffering irreversible damage from so many missile tests and launches, some of which have led to fire explosions.
But FAA officials told Border Report that “SpaceX cannot launch Starship / Super Heavy until the FAA completes the licensing process, which includes current environmental friendliness and other safety and financial responsibility requirements.”
The nonprofit Save RGV last year asked the FAA to provide more control over the project and provide locals with more data and information on risks to border communities and wildlife from ongoing missile tests.
“SpaceX really wants to launch its Starship / Super Heavy, so they’re clearly putting some pressure on the FAA to give them consent,” said Jim Chapman of Save RGV Border Report back in September when the agency released its PEA project.
After the project came out Sept. 17, the FAA received more than 19,000 comments, which the agency on Monday promised will be posted on the project website on February 18th.
But Chapman and others say the FAA controlled the very popular SpaceX, and the federal agency has allowed a private space company to decide what type of environmental assessment it will conduct. Usually the federal government decides what type of environmental expertise is needed, and many believe that for a huge project like this, a deeper statement of environmental impact is needed.
Dean Bear, who for decades has been the general adviser to the Environmental Quality Council, the agency that oversees National Environmental Protection Act, said she had never heard of a private company being able to do the same as SpaceX.
“In 25 years of overseeing the NEPA across the federal government, I have to say I’ve never heard of any agency saying that before!” she recently reported to Border Report.
In a November 1 letter she sent as part of a period of public comment, Bear called for tighter controls.
“I am writing to express concerns about important elements of the FAA’s process to implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to decide whether to approve the SpaceX Starship / Super Heavy Launch Vehicle program at the Boston Chicago SpaceX launch site in Cameron County, Texas . In particular, I am concerned that the FAA shows too much respect for the applicant in the NEPA process. In addition, the possible consequences of this proposed action require the FAA to start preparing a statement on the impact on the environment, “she wrote.
Endangered sea turtles nest a few meters from the launch pad on the sand dunes of Boko Chika beach. And the sex of reptiles is determined by the temperature experienced by the eggs. Many environmentalists fear that the extreme heat from the launch will lead to the birth of turtles of only one sexual type, and this could lead to the further extinction of this species in the coming years.
Last week, a nonprofit filed a complaint with Mr.USDA v. Neuralink, a company founded by Musk, accusing it of violating federal animal protection laws related to “invasivee and lethal brain experiments performed on 23 monkeys ”.
On On Monday, The Hill reported that NASA is concerned that Starlink The satellite, the Pet Mask project, will create congested highways in space that could lead to collisions of objects in low Earth orbit.
On Thursday, Musk said his company plans to hold 50 test runs this year. “It’s an average run a week, so we have a tough year ahead of us,” he said.
However, if the FAA believes that test launches are “significantly affecting” the environment, the agency could order a much more detailed assessment, which could take years, and this will delay its plans to transport humans to Mars quickly.
Musk says his company intends to one day transport animals to other planets as well.
“It’s very important, very important in the long run, that we become a species with several planets and eventually go beyond the solar system,” Musk said on Thursday. “We are the keepers of life. The creatures we love cannot create cosmic shifts, but we can and we can take them with us. ”
Sandra Sanchez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.