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.
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.
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.
The FAA's public scoping period for its environmental review of SpaceX's Starship/Super Heavy at Boca Chica proposal ended on January 22, 2021. The FAA received 321 comment submissions. Click here (PDF) to review the Scoping Summary Report. The report provides an overview of the FAA's scoping process for the project and the comments received during the public scoping comment period.
Public Involvement Opportunities
The FAA is determining the scope of issues for analysis in the Draft EA and will consider comments received during scoping. The FAA will supervise SpaceX's preparation of the Draft EA. Cooperating and participating agencies will also participate in its development. Once the Draft EA is complete, the FAA will provide the Draft EA for public review and comment.
The EA allows the FAA to determine the appropriate course of action. These determinations may include:
- preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (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.
If the FAA determines the potential environmental impacts of the proposed action would be significant based upon the Draft EA, and those impacts cannot be properly mitigated to less than significant levels, the FAA would publish a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS and conduct additional public scoping. The FAA may make this determination regarding the course of action at any time, including after the Draft EA has been shared for public review and comment.
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