SpaceX Joins FAA In Environmental Suit


Most people don’t ask to be sued, but SpaceX has applied to be named a co-defendant in a suit against the FAA by several environmental groups. As we reported earlier, the groups, led by the Center for Biological Diversity, allege the agency rushed the permitting process for the test launch of the massive Starship system, and therein lies SpaceX’s interest in the case. “If the Court were to rule in Plaintiffs’ favor … the Starship/Super Heavy Program could be significantly delayed, causing severe injury to SpaceX’s business,” SpaceX said in its petition. “SpaceX has a direct and substantial economic interest in the outcome of this case that the government does not share.”

When the 390-foot rocket launched in late April it blew the launch pad to pieces and stirred up thousands of tons of dust, coating an area of south Texas about six miles wide with a layer of grime. The rocket was deliberately blown up when the two stages failed to separate. SpaceX says it’s fixing the launch issues and it doesn’t want another full safety and environmental assessment ordered. The environmental groups raised no objection to SpaceX jumping in and said it’s actually common practice in cases like this.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. A business decision from SpaceX, as I bet they believe their legal team will provide a competent and expedient defense likely preserving SpaceX’s ability to continue launching and more quickly resolve.

  2. The Tweedledum & Tweedledee of environmental and class action lawsuits continually prove the truism “no idea is so wonderful that it cannot be carried to excess.”

    Both proport to be shining examples of public-spirited action when their actual purposes are to create delay, add cost and extract money to the benefit of their backers. When the fall of America’s world power is analyzed by future pundits, the uncontrolled operations of these groups will hold a prominent place among the list of contributing factors.

  3. Protecting the environment is important, but doing it in excess like those groups often are harms real environmental protection efforts and does no good to anyone.

  4. SpaceX originally went through the full EIS for the launch site for the intended purpose of a handful of Falcon 9 launches per year. Now they’re using the same 20 acre site, which is only a few miles from communities and surrounded by wildlife refuges and a park, to test rockets that are nearly twice as powerful as the Saturn V. They rushed the launch before building a proper launch pad and blew up the pad spreading debris for miles. And FAA approved it without a new or updated EIS. Given all of that, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are lawsuits.

    And lest you think this is coming from some radical environmental entity, my information comes via my membership in the planetary society, an organization whose raison d’etre’ is advocacy for space exploration. I’m all for what SpaceX is doing but there’s a limit to how careless they should be allowed to get with their fast and cheap development model.