SpaceX's goal in making humanity a multi-planetary species is particularly polarizing. To space industry advocates, it could be the best hope to use this opportunity to become a spacefaring civilization. But to others, it is a high-risk venture for the people and the environment, specifically in its Starbase in Boca Chica.
The aerospace manufacturer has to get a new launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to demonstrate that Starship can reach orbit, reenter, and touch down.
The Battle for Boca Chica: Environment vs. the Space Industry?
As FAA shared on their website, SpaceX proposes to conduct Starship launch operations from Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas. The spacecraft will be lifted off the ground using its Super Heavy rocket boosters.
FAA noted that SpaceX must apply for and obtain an experimental permit and vehicle license from the Office of Commercial Space Transportation of FAA to operate the launch of Starship/Super Heavy legally.
Last month, FAA released a draft programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) of the plans laid out by SpaceX for Starship's launch. According to an article in The Space Review, the report assesses the environmental effects of launch activities and whether and how they can be mitigated.
It is reported that the PEA could lead to FAA's more intensive environmental impact statement. The assessment included the air and water quality, as well as the noise and visual effects. But it also noted that the final decision would be made after the US Fish and Wildlife Service performs a determination of potential adverse effects on the endangered species in Boca Chica.
PEA has opened a public comment period that is heard through public hearings virtually at Zoom so people could tune in from their homes or wherever they may be and provide their comments.
Moreso, it created two different schools of thought about the Starship/Super Heavy launch. Supporters pressed the FAA to move full speed ahead on approving the environmental review and give SpaceX a license for Starship orbital launches from Boca Chica. On the other hand, others expressed their displeasure and call on FAA to develop an environmental impact statement (EIS).
Finding a balance between environmental and space industry needs is not a new challenge. But experts said that it is something that everyone should work through or otherwise it could significantly impact the industry's ability to move forward.
Why SpaceX Wants Boca Chica so Badly?
Residents in Boca Chica have learned to live, or perhaps tolerate, living near a rocket company for over five years. As The Atlantic reported, a typical neighborhood would get notices to mind their own space, but residents in Boca Chica often receive notices that their windows might shatter due to the rocket launches.
Due to this, SpaceX has offered to buy their houses three times the market value. Some have accepted the offer, while others rejected it despite knowing that Musk is preparing to launch a giant rocketship that might go into orbit soon.
In a letter, SpaceX admitted that they did not anticipate at first that Cameron County residents would experience significant disruption. But its expansion has shown that spaceflight activities and compliance to FAA as well as public safety regulations would make it challenging to minimize disruption.
So why does SpaceX want Boca Chica so badly? Perhaps it is because the infrastructure to support a departure gate from Earth in that area is slowly emerging despite Cameron County being a far cry from Cape Canaveral.
Check out more news and information on SpaceX in Science Times.