FAA delays SpaceX assessment again

Musk: Orbital launch could move to Florida

Construction continues at SpaceX at their launch pad near Boca Chica Beach Thursday along Texas State Highway 4. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

The Federal Aviation Administration announced this afternoon that it is again delaying the release of the Final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) of SpaceX’s Starship development program at Boca Chica, or Starbase.

The previous target date was Feb. 28. Now it will be March 28, according to the FAA, which began the PEA in November. The original deadline for the study’s completion was Dec. 31. The FAA said more than 19,000 public comments were received in response to the release of the Draft PEA in September and that the agency is “continuing consultation and coordination with other agencies.”

The Final PEA needs to have a “Finding of No Significant Impact” for SpaceX to receive the launch license necessary for its first orbital test launch of the Starship/Super Heavy vehicle, currently stacked adjacent to the company’s 400-foot launch tower at Boca Chica. The FAA said, however, that “completing the environmental review does not guarantee that a vehicle operator license will be issued to SpaceX.”

“The environmental review is just one part of the FAA commercial space licensing process. SpaceX must also meet FAA safety, risk and financial responsibility requirements.”

At a Feb. 10 live update at the Boca Chica, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said the company would move the first Starship orbital flight to Cape Canaveral in Florida rather than Texas if the FAA does not issue a launch license for Boca Chica.