Federal regulators have made a major decision about SpaceX’s plans to launch a giant Mars rocket called Starship into orbit from Texas, saying the launch is in line with federal environmental impact standards as long as the company adheres to 75 mitigation measures.
The Federal Aviation Administration has determined that the company’s plans for the company’s mega launch site in South Texas may have some environmental impact on the land and surrounding area. But not enough to require a full environmental impact statement.
The company now needs to make more than 75 changes to its proposal for the Starbys facility if the company is to avoid additional review and obtain authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration to launch the new Starship rocket into orbit from the site.
The list of actions includes appointing a qualified biologist to monitor the impact on local wildlife, warning the public prior to launch of sonic booms and potential hazards, and agreeing to remove any fragments from releases into sensitive habitats.
The company also has to agree not to launch on major holidays and a limited number of weekends so the public can hit the nearby beach.
But the main part of the FAA’s announcement is that it has decided that SpaceX’s launch plans will not significantly affect the quality of the human environment. As a result, the agency does not require a more comprehensive review that could further derail the company’s plans.
However, approval of the environmental review does not guarantee that the FAA will grant SpaceX a launch license, which includes a safety and risk assessment. This assessment is still under review.
SpaceX required to make modifications to get approval
The company has been waiting for that decision for nearly a year as reviews prevented the company from trying to put Starship into orbit.
This represents a test flight that the company’s founder and CEO had hoped to take off in July of last year.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which authorizes commercial missile launches, was conducting an environmental assessment to review the impact of launching such a massive missile.
A public comment period in October featured the voices of many local residents staunchly opposed to the idea. Most people spoke in favor of allowing the project to move forward. But people who identified themselves as living near the SpaceX launch site in South Texas disagreed.
Although the company expects to obtain approvals by the end of 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration had a different opinion.
The agency cited the large volume of comments provided, discussions and efforts to consult with the advisory parties as reasons for the delay.
The company could move its Starship operations to Florida, where the company launches the majority of its Falcon 9 rockets. If it does not receive approval to launch from South Texas, the company can move its operations to Florida.
But the company still needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to move forward with that plan. Reuters reported that NASA is concerned about potential damage to infrastructure .