FAA extends SpaceX’s Texas environmental review to late April

The Federal Aviation Administration’s environmental review of SpaceX’s plan to launch its Starship rocket from South Texas is expected to finish April 29, a month later than had been expected.

It was the third delay for the review, which will assess the impact of launch operations on the area around Boca Chica, Texas. The agency is also considering the potential effects on a wildlife refuge for migratory birds and other species, some of them endangered.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., as Elon Musk’s company is formally known, plans an orbital test flight of Starship from the site this year. The rocket so far has flown only short test flights to about 40 000 feet (12 kilometers) at Boca Chica, which borders the Gulf of Mexico.

The FAA is consulting and coordinating with local, state and federal agencies, spokesman Steven Kulm said by email Friday. The agency originally planned to finish its review last year but was delayed by the more than 19,000 public comments it received.

Completion of the environmental review will not “guarantee that the FAA will issue a license to SpaceX,” the agency said. The company, based in Hawthorne, California, must also “meet FAA safety, risk and financial responsibility requirements.”

SpaceX’s fully reusable Starship system is designed to carry more weight into orbit than any previous rocket and cost as little as $ 10 million per launch.

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