SpaceX’s giant Starship rocket standing at its Texas launch pad. Elon Musk’s company is looking to attempt the first orbital test flight of the nearly 400-foot-tall Starship sometime this year.
While the US government has found “No Significant Impact”, it is placing some limitations on launches and conditions that need to be met to operate the futuristic base.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX cleared a major hurdle as the US government concluded an environmental review of its gigantic, futuristic Starship base in Texas. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) saw no environmental concerns but laid down 75 conditions to reduce the impact on the region.
The environmental review was for the proposed SpaceX Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket program in Boca Chica located at the southernmost tip of Texas, about 1,000 miles west of Cape Canaveral where SpaceX launches astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station for Nasa.
Following the decision, SpaceX tweeted, “One step closer to the first orbital flight test of Starship.”
However, there’s no guarantee a launch license will be issued, since other factors such as safety and financial responsibility requirements still must be met at the Boca Chica site, according to the FAA. The agency said as a result of the requirements there will be more advanced notice of launches to reduce a highway closure during launch operations.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in February he was “highly confident” his new SpaceX Starship, designed for voyages to the moon and Mars, would reach Earth orbit. (File Pic)
At nearly 400 feet (120 meters), the Starship is the most powerful rocket ever built and is meant to carry people to the moon and Mars. Nasa intends to use it for the space agency’s lunar landing of astronauts, planned no earlier than 2025.
The environmental review maintained that the launches will not be allowed on 18 identified holidays, and are limited to no more than five weekends per year. The FAA is requiring ongoing monitoring of vegetation and wildlife; advance notification to surrounding communities about potential engine noise and sonic booms from launches; and adjusting launch complex lighting to minimize wildlife impact.
Some residents had opposed Starship launches and landings, citing not only the noise and closed roads but also wreckage raining down from failed flights. SpaceX has launched Starship’s bullet-shaped upper stage several kilometers into the air over the past year — resulting in some spectacular explosions — it’s yet to fly it atop a Super Heavy booster.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in February he was “highly confident” his new SpaceX Starship, designed for voyages to the moon and Mars, would reach Earth orbit for the first time this year. Even in a “worst-case” scenario, in which a full environmental impact statement was required or legal wrangling over the issue threatened to drag on, Musk said SpaceX has a fallback plan.
The company would shift its entire Starship program to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where SpaceX has received the environmental approval it needs, Musk has said.