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FAA delays Starship environmental review
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FAA delays Starship environmental review

SANTA FE (N.M.) According to the Federal Aviation Administration, it will take at least two months to complete an environment review of SpaceX Starship orbital launches using its Boca Chica facility in Texas.

Dec. 28th, the FAA stated that it was unable meet the original Dec. 31 deadline for completion of an environmental assessment of SpaceX’s plans to launch its Starship/Super Heavy vehicle into orbit from the Boca Chica facility called Starbase. The FAA requires that the review, which is also known as a Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA), be completed before obtaining a launch license.

The FAA announced an update to its schedule due to the volume of comments received on the Draft PEA. Discussions and consultations with consulting parties are ongoing. Visit its website. The FAA plans to release the Final PEA by February 28, 2022.

The FAA received over 18,000 comments on the September draft of its report. SpaceX is responding under the supervision and control of the FAA to the public comments, the agency said. It did not elaborate on the analysis of the comments. Many comments, both positive and negative, were made at the October public hearings on the review.

Consultations with other government agencies are part of the environmental review process. FAA noted that these consultations include those concerning endangered species and preservation of historical sites.

The delay in the completion the environmental review means that an FAA license for Starship/Super Heavy orbital launch from Boca Chica has not been granted. Elon Musk, SpaceX’s Chief Executive, stated in November that he expected to receive the launch license by the end of 2021. A first orbital launch is projected for January 2022.

It is unclear, however, if SpaceX was able to launch an orbital rocket on the same schedule as originally planned, even if the licensing process and environmental review were completed as expected. Musk claimed in November that SpaceX would perform several tests of its Starship vehicle and Super Heavy booster in December. However, many of those expected tests, such static fires have not been performed yet.

It is not certain that the Feb. 28 deadline will be extended. Spaceport Camden, a Georgia launch site, was subject to an environmental review that took place months before the FAA granted a spaceport license Dec. 20.

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