SpaceX’s Starship Project wins FAA approval for its launch in South Texas

After long consideration, the most awaited news was stated by the U.S. Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA). The news by FAA mentioned that SpaceX can still continue the development and testing process of its huge Starship vehicle. This testing can be done in South Texas only if the company is ready to meet certain criteria specified by FAA. The main criteria include reducing the impact of the Starship launch on environmentally sensitive areas.

What is FAA’s review on the SpaceX’s Starship Project

SpaceX's Starship Project
SpaceX’s huge Starship vehicle on the launch pad at the South Texas Starbase site in March 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

There are a lot of environmental impacts caused due to the launch of Starships. This environmental impact due to any Starship launch activities at Starbase, which is a SpaceX facility present in the city of Brownsville, will be gauged by Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA). The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated this in a recent review on the Starship launch.

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What is Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA)?

The Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) is supposed to be released long back by the end of 2021. But its release is being delayed by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) multiple times. The reason expressed behind this is that they needed to confer with other agencies and there are public comments that need to be analyzed with respect to the draft version. The draft version was released in mid-September.

What is the announcement given by FAA?

After a long wait, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave an announcement on June 13, which is a piece of very good news for SpaceX. The announcement said that SpaceX can continue the work related to its Starship launch at the Starbase. The launch work mainly includes prepping the huge vehicle for its orbital test flight. This work doesn’t even need the environmental impact statement and stricter and more time-consuming review.

What is SpaceX’s reaction to the PEA release?

SpaceX seems to be very happy with the news released by PEA. The company also made a tweet expressing its happiness saying “One step closer to the first orbital flight test of Starship.” This proves that PEA’s release is a piece of celebratory news for SpaceX. However, the PEA, on the other hand, didn’t give free rein to SpaceX in this issue.

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As per the requirements mentioned by PEA, SpaceX is supposed to take care of the impact the launch would cause on the environment. Since the launch work is being carried out at Starbase, PEA mentioned that the Texas Gulf Coast area where the launch place is present should be environmentally clean even after the Starship launch. The PEA also asked the company to take more than 75 actions to reduce the environmental damage that the launch might cause.

What did the FAA officials write in the emailed statement?

SpaceX's Starship Project
Credit – interesting engineering

The FAA officials mentioned that there will be more advanced launches that might be taking place inbthe future from the same place. So, after proper consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it is said that the blocking time of State Highway 4 should be reduced during the satellite launch operations. The highway passes through Boca Chica Beach, Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, and many Texas State Parks. All the above information was stated by the FAA officials in an emailed statement.


Finally, FAA gave a clear statement telling that SpaceX can carry out its launch operations as long as it wishes, only after following certain requirements. One of them also included allowing a biologist to monitor the plant and the biologist is also responsible to take care of the animal population present in that area. The FAA also asked SpaceX to keep the local people in the place, informed about all the activities that the company is planning to perform.

The company also needs to inform the locals about the loud noises that might arise during the launch work of the satellites. These loud noises might include sonic booms that might cause a huge disturbance to the natives over there. SpaceX is also asked to make sure that the waste and launch debris has to be sent out only through sensitive habitats in a safe manner. The company is also asked to monitor the lighting setup so that the light doesn’t have any impact on the nearby beach and the nocturnal wildlife.

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