Environmental groups are asking the FAA to do a full-scale environmental assessment on SpaceX’s explosion-prone facility in Texas. Seven organizations have jointly signed a letter to three FAA administrators to look into the activities at the Boca Chica assembly and live test site in south Texas. The site is used for development and testing of SpaceX’s interplanetary Starship and Super Heavy booster rocket and there have been some spectacular failures. The groups have pointed out to the FAA that the operation is much different and much more dangerous than that described in the original environmental impact statement filed by SpaceX in 2014.
The 2014 document envisioned a 21-acre launch site for up to 12 Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy rocket launches per year. The facility is now a 24-hour-a-day test facility for the interplanetary program that bears no resemblance to the original application, say the groups. “The Starship and Super Heavy booster together will be larger than the approved Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy by an order of magnitude, standing 39 stories tall, with nine million pounds of propellants,” the groups wrote. “Round-the-clock experimental testing has already increased significantly SpaceX’s footprint (and they plan to expand further) by enlarging its acreage, its number of buildings, its number of employees and contractors, its hours of beach and refuge closure, and its number of test firings and pressure tests.” The letter also notes the multiple explosions, some of which “scattered rocket debris and caused wildfires that have consumed more than 100 acres of native habitat on national wildlife refuge land.”