FAA Requires SpaceX to Take Over 75 Actions to Mitigate Environmental Impact of Planned Starship/Super Heavy Launches

Photo Credit: Space Channel/Nicholas D’Alessandro

Monday, June 13, 2022

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will require SpaceX to take more than 75 actions to mitigate environmental impacts from its proposed plan to launch the Starship/Super Heavy vehicle from Boca Chica, Texas. 

The actions are part of the agency’s environmental review. The environmental review must be completed along with public safety, national security, and other analyses before a decision on whether to grant a launch license can be made. The license application is still pending.  

After consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there will be more advanced notice of launches  to reduce how long State Highway 4 is closed during launch operations. The highway traverses Boca Chica Beach, Texas State Parks and the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. Closures will not be allowed on 18 identified holidays, and weekend restrictions are limited to no more than five weekends per year, ensuring robust access to the refuge and park throughout the calendar year. The FAA will also require real-time notifications when access restrictions begin, end or are cancelled.

Additional measures to address impacts to fish, wildlife and plants, and resources protected by the National Historic Preservation Act will be required. Some examples of these measures include:

  • Ongoing monitoring of vegetation and wildlife by a qualified biologist;
  • Ensuring notification of surrounding communities in advance about potential engine noise and sonic booms from launches; 
  • Coordinating with state or federal agencies to remove launch debris from sensitive habitats;
  • Adjusting lighting at the launch complex to minimize impact on wildlife and the nearby beach.

The required actions are part of the FAA’s Programmatic Environmental Assessment, Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and Record of Decision (ROD). The documents are available at The SpaceX Starship Super Heavy Project at the Boca Chica Launch Site page

The environmental review is one part of the FAA Launch Operator License application process. SpaceX also must meet FAA safety, risk, and financial responsibility requirements before a license is issued for any launch activities. The review was completed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act and all applicable laws, regulations, and agency guidance.

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