SpaceX Starship Super Heavy Project at the Boca Chica Launch Site

SpaceX proposes to conduct Starship/Super Heavy launch operations from the Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas. SpaceX must apply for and obtain an experimental permit(s) and/or a vehicle operator license from the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation to operate the Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle. The FAA's evaluation of a permit or license application includes a review of 1) public safety issues (such as overflight of populated areas and payload contents); 2) national security or foreign policy concerns; 3) insurance requirements for the launch operator; and 4) potential environmental impact. Read more about the history of the Boca Chica launch site and the location of the launch site.

FAA

The Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984, as amended and codified at 51 U.S.C. §§ 50901-50923, authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to oversee, license, and regulate commercial launch and reentry activities, and the operation of launch and reentry sites within the United States or as carried out by U.S. citizens. Section 50905 directs the Secretary to exercise this responsibility consistent with public health and safety, safety of property, and the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States. In addition, Section 50903 requires the Secretary to encourage, facilitate, and promote commercial space launches and reentries by the private sector. As codified at 49 CFR § 1.83(b), the Secretary has delegated authority to carry out these functions to the FAA Administrator.

For more information, read more about the License Review Process and the Environmental Review Process.

SpaceX

Founded in 2002, SpaceX is a commercial space transportation company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX developed the Falcon 1 (no longer operational), Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy vertical orbital launch vehicles, all of which were built with the goal of becoming reusable launch vehicles. SpaceX launches commercial and government payloads, including the Dragon spacecraft, which was recently used to send NASA astronauts to the International Space Station and bring them back to Earth. SpaceX is currently developing a new rocket, Starship/Super Heavy, with the goal of traveling to Mars. For additional information on SpaceX, please visit spacex.com.

Project Updates

Programmatic Environmental Assessment

The FAA published the Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (Final PEA) and Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision (Mitigated FONSI/ROD) for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program at the SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas (PEA) on June 13, 2022. The documentation is available for download below. 

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Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision

The FAA determined that the Proposed Action would not result in significant environmental consequences and has issued a Mitigated Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision (FONSI/ROD). The Mitigated FONSI/ROD is available above. Required mitigation measures are listed throughout Chapter 3 of the final PEA. Should any future license or permit be issued to SpaceX to perform any aspect of the Proposed Action, the FAA will ensure that SpaceX implements these mitigation measures as conditions for licensure. 

Biological Opinion

As part of the Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultation process, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a Biological Opinion (BO), which concludes the Proposed Action is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any federally listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitat. The BO is included in PEA Appendix D and available here (PDF).

Programmatic Agreement 

As part of the National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 consultation process, the FAA, Texas State Historic Preservation Officer, National Park Service, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, SpaceX, USFWS, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executed a Programmatic Agreement (PA). The PA outlines the measures to resolve adverse effects of the Proposed Action on historic properties. The PA is included in PEA Appendix C and available here (PDF).

Background

The FAA published the draft PEA on September 17, 2021. The original comment period was from September 17, 2021 through October 18, 2021. In response to public requests, the FAA extended the comment period to November 1, 2021. The FAA held two virtual public hearings to solicit comments from the public concerning the scope and content of the draft PEA. The hearings were held October 18 and October 20, 2021. The comments can be found on this page. The PEA was revised based on public comments, and the final PEA includes responses to comments (see final PEA Appendix I).

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Last updated: Monday, June 13, 2022