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.

Tiered Environmental Assessment for SpaceX Starship Indian Ocean Landings

The FAA is announcing the availability of the Final Tiered Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision (FONSI/ROD) for the SpaceX Starship Indian Ocean Indian Ocean Landings Final Tiered EA and FONSI/ROD. The FAA is the lead agency on this Final Tiered EA. 
The electronic versions of the Final Tiered EA and FONSI/ROD are available on this website for download. 

Under the Proposed Action addressed in the Final Tiered EA:

  • The FAA’s Federal Action is to modify SpaceX’s vehicle operator license that would allow SpaceX to land its Starship vehicle in the Indian Ocean. The Proposed Action includes expanding the Starship section stage landing area into the Indian Ocean to accommodate new trajectories proposed by SpaceX. In addition, the FAA must also approve related airspace closures for Starship reentry operations.
  • SpaceX’s Proposed Action is to conduct a total of ten nominal operations, including up to a maximum of five overpressure events from Starship intact impact and up to a total of five reentry debris or soft water landings in the Indian Ocean, within a year of issuance of a NMFS concurrence letter. 

November 2023 Written Reevaluation

SpaceX applied to the FAA to modify its existing vehicle operator license for the operation of the Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle from its existing Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas. The additional information in the application includes more detail about the operation of a deluge system, the addition of a forward heat shield interstage to the vehicle, and the expansion of the Area of Potential Effects for cultural resources. The FAA published a Written Re-evaluation that evaluates, based on this new information, whether supplemental environmental analysis is needed to support the FAA’s  decision to modify SpaceX’s vehicle operator license. 

Based on the Written Re-evaluation (WR), the FAA concluded that the proposed modification to  the vehicle operator license for Starship/Super Heavy operations conforms to the prior environmental documentation, that the data contained in the 2022 Programmatic Environmental Assessment remains substantially valid, that there are no significant environmental changes, and all pertinent conditions and requirements of the prior approval have been met or will be met in the current action. 

Therefore, the preparation of a supplemental or new environmental document is not necessary to support the Proposed Action.

The WR was signed on November 15, 2023. An electronic version of the document is available at the following link:

Written Re-evaluation (WR)

•  WR Appendix A: 2023 Biological Assessment Addendum

•  WR Appendix B: Reinitiation #1 of Interagency Consultation 
•  WR Appendix C: 2023 Cultural Resources Documentation

FAA will provide language interpretation services upon request. Please email spacexbocachica@icf.com to request services.
La FAA proporcionará servicios de interpretación de idiomas a solicitud. Por favor, envíe un correo electrónico a spacexbocachica@icf.com para solicitar los servicios.

For media inquiries, please contact the FAA press office at pressoffice@faa.gov.

April 2023 Written Re-Evaluation

Since the 2022 Programmatic Environmental Assessment, SpaceX provided the FAA with additional information regarding Starship’s planned landing, Super Heavy’s planned soft water landing, and the Launch Pad Detonation Suppression System. The FAA has published a Written Re-Evaluation which evaluates, based on this new information, whether supplemental environmental analysis is needed to support the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation decision to issue a vehicle operator license to SpaceX for the operation of the Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle at its existing Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas. 

In the Written Re-Evaluation, the FAA concluded that the issuance of a vehicle operator license for Starship/Super Heavy operations conforms to the prior environmental documentation, that the data contained in the 2022 Programmatic Environmental Assessment remains substantially valid, that there are no significant environmental changes, and all pertinent conditions and requirements of the prior approval have been met or will be met in the current action. Therefore, the preparation of a supplemental or new environmental document is not necessary to support the Proposed Action.

An electronic version of the document was uploaded on Friday, April 14, 2023 and is available at the following link:

•    Written Re-Evaluation for SpaceX Starship Super Heavy Reentry

FAA will provide language interpretation services upon request. Please email spacexbocachica@icf.com to request services.
La FAA proporcionará servicios de interpretación de idiomas a solicitud. Por favor, envíe un correo electrónico a spacexbocachica@icf.com para solicitar los servicios.

For media inquiries, please contact the FAA press office at pressoffice@faa.gov.

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. 

Spanish

English

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: Wednesday, March 13, 2024