SpaceX review meets resistance from natural resources agencies
Rocket launches at Boca Chica remain on hold while SpaceX waits for the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The company is waiting for a federal review on its expanded plans to launch bigger and more powerful rockets, but comments from the U.S. Department of the Interior, a federal agency in charge of natural resources, could ground the launches for even longer.
When it first opened the site about eight years ago, SpaceX wanted to use the site to launch the smaller Falcon rocket and test prototypes. The company now wants to use the site for the much larger Starship, the current design said to be setting records.
"It's huge," said Dr. Olga Bannova, the director of the Space Architecture Graduate Program at the University of Houston. "Well it's the largest rocket, yes it is, because it's designed to deliver the largest payload to the farthest destination, which for us is what is achievable. I'm talking about human spaceflight, of course, [to] Mars."
The review looks at the safety and environmental impact of them. One of the big problems for SpaceX is that the Boca Chica site it selected eight years ago is surrounded on all sides by protected resources: state-owned beaches to the east, a state park to the west, and a federal wildlife refuge to the north and south.
Historical sites, like the Palomito Ranch battlefield, is also located along the highway.
In its comments to the FAA, the Department of Interior says it has concerns about air quality, impacts to endangered species, ongoing road closures, blast hazards and noise, among other things.
When the SN8 launched about 12 months ago, it had three raptor engines and could be heard from five miles away.
SpaceX is now prepping its newest prototype with at least 29 raptor engines.
The Department of Interior response saying a stricter review may be necessary, which would mean more delays, potentially jeopardizing SpaceX’s investment.
It's an issue local municipalities are thinking about, after recent benefits of grants and business growth.
"Well, certainly we're not relying on SpaceX to close the academic gaps,” said Brownsville ISD Deputy Superintendent Dr. Anysia Treviño. “We have to rely on the current budget that we have."
The FAA review is expected to be done at the end of February, if it's not delayed or expanded in scope.
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