FAA (further) extends environmental review of SpaceX Boca Chica launch site

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SpaceX has to wait even longer to find out if it can launch Starship flights from its facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has again postponed its decision on the environmental review of the launch site, pushing back its target completion date to April 29. SpaceX must obtain FAA approval, as well as a vehicle operator license, to be able to launch Starship missions out of Boca Chica as planned.

To be exact, the agency is investigating whether launching the massive reusable vehicle out of the facility will have a significant environmental impact on the area and pose a threat to public safety. Its original target date for completion was December 21, 2021, but it pushed the date back to February 28, 2022, and then again to March 28. On the official environmental assessment page, the FAA said it was updating its target date to April 29 “to reflect further review of comments and ongoing interagency consultations.” The FAA received 19,000 comments for the draft exam released last year.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk recently revealed that the company hopes to send Starship into orbit for the first time in May. If the FAA completes its review on time and with a favorable outcome for the company, then it is possible that the launch could take place in a few months. It should be noted, however, that Musk’s timelines might be a bit too optimistic.

If the Boca Chica site fails the FAA’s environmental review or the agency issues an environmental impact statement (EIS) to further the company’s plans over the next few years, then SpaceX could move on to its backup plan. During a Starship presentation earlier this year, Musk said SpaceX already has clearance to launch the Starship from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The move would delay the vehicle’s first flight by six to eight months as the company needs to build a launch tower at the launch site, but at least the wait wouldn’t be years.

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