SpaceX has to wait even longer to find out if it can launch Starship flights out of its Boca Chica facility in Texas. The US Federal Aviation Administration has delayed its decision on the environmental review of the launch site yet again, pushing back its target date of completion to April 29th. SpaceX must secure the FAA’s approval, along with a vehicle operator license, before it can launch Starship missions out of Boca Chica as planned.
Specifically, the agency is looking into whether launching the massive reusable vehicle out of the facility will have a significant environmental impact on the area and will be a public safety threat. Its original target date for completion was December 21st, 2021, but it pushed the date back to February 28th, 2022 and then again to March 28th. On the official page for the environmental assessment, the FAA said it’s updating its target date to April 29th “to account for further comment review and ongoing interagency consultations.” The FAA received 19,000 comments for the draft version of the review published 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 finishes its review on time, and with a favorable result for the company, then there’s a chance the launch could happen in a couple of months. It’s worth noting that Musk’s timeline could be too optimistic.
In case the Boca Chica site fails the FAA’s environmental review or if the agency issues an environmental impact statement (EIS) to dig deeper into the company’s plans over the next few years, then SpaceX could shift to its backup plan. During a Starship presentation earlier this year, Musk said SpaceX already has approval to launch the Starship from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The move would delay the vehicle’s first flight by six to eight months since the company has to build a launch tower at the site, but at least the wait wouldn’t last for years.
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