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U.S. FAA extends environmental review of SpaceX program in Texas

Environmental Government

U.S. FAA extends environmental review of SpaceX program in Texas

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Friday it was again extending its target date to complete an environmental review of the proposed SpaceX Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket program in Boca Chica, Texas, to May 31.

The FAA’s previous target date was April 29 after a series of earlier delays. The agency said SpaceX made multiple changes to its application that require additional FAA analysis and that it is still reviewing around 18,000 public comments.

The FAA noted that completing the environmental review does not guarantee the issuance of a vehicle operator license, which also is contingent upon meeting FAA requirements for safety, risk and financial responsibility.

The FAA is deciding whether the planned build-out in Texas poses a significant environmental impact to the area – including an adjacent wildlife reserve – and must therefore undergo a far more extensive study before expanded operations at SpaceX’s rocket production facility and space port in Boca Chica can be licensed.

See related article: Howmet Aerospace Releases 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance Report

SpaceX did not immediately comment.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in February he was “highly confident” his new SpaceX Starship, designed for voyages to the moon and Mars, will reach Earth orbit for the first time this year.

Even in a “worst-case” scenario, in which a full environmental impact statement were required or legal wrangling over the issue threatened to drag on, Musk said SpaceX has a fall-back plan.

The company would shift its entire Starship program to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where SpaceX already has received the environmental approval it needs, Musk said.

Such a move would cause a setback of six to eight months, he added. In any case, SpaceX is still shooting for a 2023 launch of what it calls the world’s first private lunar mission, flying aboard a Starship to loop around the moon and return to Earth.

(Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Franklin Paul and Matthew Lewis)

Source: Reuters

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