SpaceX eyes Friday launch attempt at Boca Chica, but still needs FAA license

A view of SpaceX Starship from Texas State Highway 48 as the rocket launches from Boca Chica/Starbase April 20, 2023, exploding soon after liftoff. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)
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SpaceX says it’s shooting for Friday at the earliest for its second Starship orbital flight attempt from Boca Chica/Starbase, “pending final regulatory approval,” according to the company’s CEO, Elon Musk.

SpaceX’s first orbital flight attempt of a Starship prototype took place on April 20 and ended when the Starship and its Super Heavy booster automatically self-destructed over the Gulf of Mexico after veering out of control four minutes after liftoff. The blast of the launch also destroyed the orbital launch pad at Boca Chica, though it has since been rebuilt and other improvements have been been made to avoid a repeat, according to the company.

A SpaceX official said last month that the company has been ready for a second orbital attempt for several weeks but had yet to receive the necessary launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA announced Sept. 8 that it had wrapped up its “mishap investigation” into the April 20 explosion, identifying “multiple root causes” in its final report and prescribing 63 separate corrective actions SpaceX needed to take before being granted a modified license for a second launch.

On Oct. 31 the agency said it had completed the safety review for SpaceX’s license application but that the environmental review was ongoing.

On Nov. 13, Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. announced the temporary closure of Boca Chica Beach access and S.H. 4 from F.M. 1419/Oklahoma Avenue to the beach on Nov. 17, from 12 a.m. to 2 p.m. “for the purpose of protecting public health and safety during SpaceX spaceflight activities.”

Alternative potential launch dates are Nov. 18-19, 12 a.m. to 2 p.m. on both days.

“Should SpaceX not complete its planned space flight activities on Nov. 17, then SpaceX may use the alternate date to complete its test launch activities,” Trevino said.

SpaceX and law enforcement will be coordinating to ensure no individuals or vehicles gain access to off-limits areas during closure hours. In coordination with the county, SpaceX will establish a safety zone perimeter including two temporary checkpoints on S.H. 4. Only individuals with proof of residence between the two checkpoints will be allowed through the “soft” checkpoint to access their homes during testing, Trevino said.

“Access beyond the hard checkpoint to the beach will not be permitted during temporary closures,” he said.

Access to Boca Chica Beach will be closed, though county beach access on South Padre Island will remain open, Trevino said.