FAA To Begin Environmental Review at SpaceX Texas Launch Site

Monday, November 23, 2020

SpaceX has informed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that it plans to apply for licenses for suborbital and orbital launches of its Starship spacecraft powered by the Super Heavy rocket at its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.

The proposed update to Starship/Super Heavy operations falls outside of the scope of the existing final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision for the launch site and requires additional environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

The FAA is in the beginning stages of conducting the environmental review of the SpaceX proposal and developing a public outreach plan.  The FAA intends to provide scoping information for the project soon. SpaceX is working with the FAA to prepare a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) which will be subject to the FAA’s evaluation and approval.

The EA will allow the FAA to determine the appropriate course of action: preparation of an EIS because the proposed action’s environmental impacts would be significant; issuance of a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI); or issuance of a “Mitigated FONSI” providing for mitigation measures to address the proposed action’s environmental impacts. The FAA may make its determination during the EA process or after SpaceX presents a draft EA for FAA approval. 

To receive the licenses, SpaceX must complete a safety review and develop agreements for the license application in addition to the environmental review. 

Information about the FAA environmental review process as it relates to commercial space transportation is posted at faa.gov/space/environmental.