Jun 14, 2022 - Science

SpaceX closer to Mars rocket launch after FAA environmental review

SpaceX's first orbital Starship SN20 is stacked atop its massive Super Heavy Booster 4 at the company's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on February 10.
SpaceX's first orbital Starship SN20 is stacked atop its massive Super Heavy Booster 4 at the company's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas in February. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

SpaceX can proceed with planned orbital launches of its Starship vehicle from Texas provided Elon Musk's company makes dozens of environmental adjustments, the Federal Aviation Administration said on Monday.

Driving the news: An FAA environmental review found there would be "no significant impact" on the Gulf Coast region from SpaceX launches from its site in Boca Chica.

A screenshot of SpaceX's tweet reacting to the FAA decision
Screenshot: SpaceX/Twitter

Yes, but: The FAA said SpaceX must take more than 75 actions to mitigate environmental impacts.

The big picture: The requirements include ensuring a nearby highway and Boca Chica Beach are closed during launches. "Closures will not be allowed on 18 identified holidays" and will be limited to five weekends a year, according to an emailed FAA statement.

  • SpaceX must work with a "qualified biologist" on lighting inspections to minimize the impact on sea turtles, perform quarterly cleanups of the local beach, and contribute to education and preservation efforts in the region.
  • The company must also make contributions of $5,000 per year each to groups that protect ocelots and endangered birds of prey, among other measures.

What they're saying: "The environmental review must be completed along with public safety, national security, and other analyses before a decision on whether to grant a launch license can be made," the FAA said.

  • "The license application is still pending."

The bottom line, via Axios' Miriam Kramer: SpaceX now has a path to gaining full approval to launch its Mars rocket from its preferred launch site.

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