The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is set to complete an environmental review of the proposed SpaceX Starship spacecraft and super-heavy rocket program in Boca Chika, Texas, early Tuesday.
In late April, the FAA extended the target date to May 31 for a decision, stating that it was “working towards issuing a final programmatic environmental assessment” after several delays. The company said that in April, SpaceX made multiple changes to its application that required additional FAA analysis.
The FAA noted that completing an environmental review does not guarantee the issuance of a vehicle operator’s license, which depends on meeting FAA requirements for safety, risk and financial responsibility.
The FAA released a 151-page draft environmental review in September that looked at the potential environmental implications of SpaceX’s initial mission profile and reviewed debris recovery, local road closures in Boka Chika and other issues. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in February that he was “extremely confident” that his new SpaceX, designed to travel to the starship, the moon and Mars, would reach Earth orbit for the first time this year.
Even in one of the “worst” situations, where a full environmental impact statement was required or threatened to drag a legal dispute over the issue, Musk said SpaceX has a fallback plan.
The company will transfer its entire Starship program to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, where SpaceX has already received the necessary environmental clearances, Musk said.
Such a move would push for six to eight months, he added. However, SpaceX is still shooting for a 2023 launch that it calls the world’s first private lunar mission, riding in a starship and looping around the moon back to Earth.