If you want to launch Starship from Texas, here's some homework, FAA tells SpaceX

Be a good neighbor to folks and the environment, and we'll think that permit over


SpaceX is one step closer to securing a permit to launch not just its first rocket from Boca Chica, Texas but its reusable super-heavy lifter at that.

And by one step closer, we mean: the US Federal Aviation Administration has issued more than 75 requirements for SpaceX to fulfill, which are aimed at minimizing the environmental impact of its launches on residents and wildlife.

Those requirements [PDF], made public Monday by the watchdog, list a series of concerns and actions SpaceX needs to take before it can hope to get the green light to use Boca Chica as intended. The FAA wants SpaceX to complete this environmental review and mitigate the effects of repeatedly launching and landing its giant reusable 120-metre Starship on the air, water, climate, peace and quiet, and land around the launchpad.

Starship being SpaceX's next-gen spacecraft that's part super-rocket and part spaceship designed to ferry much more cargo and people into and out of orbit and beyond than the biz's rockets today. The biz wants to test the craft by putting it into orbit from America's Lone Star State, and has already made some changes.

SpaceX's proposed Boca Chica launch site, dubbed Starbase, is close to a state park, beaches, a wildlife refuge, and the sea. Officials have asked the Elon-Musk-run company to give a clear advance warning to folks before it plans to launch a test flight, as you'd expect, and have insisted on a bunch of other protections.

For instance, public access to Boca Chica State Park, some parts of the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge, and Brazos Island State Park will be restricted during launch and landing operations so that no one comes a cropper from the overhead sonic booms and overpressure.

"Any structural damage from a sonic boom would be minor, compensated by SpaceX in the event it did occur, and would not present a risk to human safety," the FAA document stated.

SpaceX has also been tasked with working with a qualified biologist to minimize the effects of bright lights from its operations on sea turtles during their mating season.

Fish, sea turtles, and marine mammals are unlikely to be directly hit by debris falling from the sky. Sonic booms from landing the reusable engine are also unlikely to impact the surface of the ocean, we're told.

"The completion of the environmental review process does not guarantee that the FAA will issue an experimental permit or vehicle operator license to SpaceX for Starship/Super Heavy launches at the launch site," the regulator added. "SpaceX's license application must also meet FAA safety, risk, and financial responsibility requirements."

The conditions outlined in the report are contingent on SpaceX not launching orbital test flights of its Starship rocket more than five times a year. SpaceX has tested its heavy-lift vehicle a few times, but they haven't flown far and have exploded a few times.

The Register has asked SpaceX for comment. ®

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