Sunday, December 3, 2023

FAA review of SpaceX Starship launch delayed by month

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SpaceX will not be able to test its next-generation Starship rocket for some time, as the company will have to wait a little longer for permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The publication of the FAA’s final environmental review of the launch has been postponed until May 31, the agency wrote in update.

The environmental review, called the Program Environmental Assessment (PEA), has already gone through a draft stage last year. But now the FAA says it will wait to release its final report by the end of next month. This follows an earlier announcement by the FAA that it intends to publish the review in late April, but that will not happen now.

The SpaceX spacecraft on the Super Heavy Accelerator at the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX

The launch in question is the spacecraft’s first orbital test flight, when the Super Heavy Accelerator and the Starship Spacecraft will be launched into the air, then both sections will plunge down into the ocean about 90 minutes later.

The concept of PEA is to assess whether a planned launch could pose any threat to public safety, such as by flying over an inhabited area, whether it raises any national security concerns, coverage of insurance issues, and any environmental impacts of the launch. Explaining the delay, the FAA said it was finalizing the review and responding to public comments following the draft report.

“The FAA is finalizing the review of the Final PEA, including responding to comments and ensuring consistency with SpaceX’s licensing application,” the agency wrote. “The FAA is also completing a consultation and confirming mitigations for SpaceX’s proposed operations. All consultations must be completed before the FAA can issue the Final PEA.”

Although space enthusiasts and SpaceX fans will be saddened by this latest delay, it is unclear whether the spacecraft’s prototype is actually ready for its first orbital test flight. How reportsElon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said last month that the company still needs to finish building its engines and integrate them into the Starship, so he assessed May at the earliest for the first spacecraft test orbit of the Starship.

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