FAA releases final assessment of SpaceX’s Starbase and Starship program, requires changes

The Federal Aviation Administration published its highly anticipated environmental assessment of SpaceX’s Starbase launch site and the Starship launch program on Monday, with the agency finding that SpaceX’s plans would not result in significant impacts to the environment — but requiring the company to implement a number of mitigation measures before it can start conducting test flights.

The FAA’s Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA), which comes in at 183 pages, lays out the potential consequences of SpaceX’s Starbase complex and Starship launch program on everything from noise pollution due to sonic booms, to light pollution on local sea turtle populations. Overall, SpaceX will need to take over 75 mitigatory actions to comply with the assessment, the FAA said in a press release.

The PEA is long time coming, with the FAA first announcing it would conduct an environmental assessment way back in November 2020. The agency published a draft PEA last September, but this final document was beset by delays as the FAA sought input from other government agencies and the public. While SpaceX awaited the final assessment, it has continued work at Starbase, rolling out multiple prototypes of the giant Starship and testing the upper stage in high-altitude tests.

FAA’s final determination — what’s called a “Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact” — means that the company will not have to engage in a much more in-depth Environmental Impact Statement, which would likely take many more months, if not years, to complete. But today’s finding from the FAA doesn’t guarantee a launch license, even if SpaceX complies with the over 75 changes. “SpaceX’s license application must also meet FAA safety, risk, and financial responsibility requirements,” the PEA says.

SpaceX has huge plans for Starbase. The company told the FAA it wants to conduct up to 20 suborbital launches of Starship annually, and up to, but not more than, five orbital launches annually. These launches would see Starship’s Super Heavy booster return to Earth, much the same way the company lands its Falcon 9 boosters on floating sea barges today.

Developing… 

This article was originally published on TechCrunch.com. Read More on their website.

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