Licensing and Permitting Process

The regulatory requirements pertaining to commercial launches and individual launch operators are described in 14 CFR Chapter III, Parts 400-460. SpaceX could apply for and obtain the following type of license or experimental permit for Starship/Super Heavy launches at the Boca Chica Launch Site:

  • Vehicle operator license – authorizes a licensee to conduct one or more launches or reentries using the same vehicle or family of vehicles. (14 CFR § 450.3(a))
  • Experimental permit – authorizes the launch of a reusable suborbital rocket for one of the following purposes:
    • Research and development to test new design concepts, new equipment, or new operating techniques;
    • A showing of compliance with requirements for obtaining a license; or
    • Crew training before obtaining a license for a launch or reentry using the design of the rocket for which the permit would be issued.

    Experimental permits are valid for one year and authorize an unlimited number of launches and reentries of a specified reusable suborbital rocket design from a specified site. The permit must also specify the modifications that may be made to the suborbital rocket without changing the design to an extent that would invalidate the permit. Experimental permits are not renewable. (14 CFR Part 437)

The FAA's evaluation of a license or permit application includes a review of public safety issues (such as payload contents), national security or foreign policy concerns, insurance requirements for the launch operator, and potential environmental impact.

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Last updated: Thursday, November 12, 2020