There’s been a lot of activity in the past couple of days with SpaceX putting together the launch tower, installing 29 raptor engines on Super Heavy overnight (which usually takes days to do), stacking Booster 4 which will be complete once Ship 20 is placed on top and attaching the aft flaps… all within 2 days.
But what is SpaceX gearing up for? They seemed to be strapped to the launch pad due to continued challenges with the FAA, while Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have already taken off. Back in late June, at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference (ISDC), SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that the company is shooting to have its first orbital spaceflight of Starship and Super Heavy this July from Starbase.
Recently, the FAA warned SpaceX about the unapproved launch tower included in the ongoing environmental review of the Boca Chica facility, and FAA safety authorization division manager Daniel Murray had expressed concerns about the integration tower being used for FAA-licensed or -permitted launches though SpaceX originally denied those claims, and the company’s existing license only covers Starship’s suborbital flights.
With no update on the environmental assessment by the FAA, which includes the publication of a draft version available for public comment before the final version is released, it’s unclear what SpaceX is preparing for.
Will this push the FAA to overhaul its policy timeline? Will the consequences be harmful to SpaceX’s production and launching at Boca Chica? How will the FAA respond? Will SpaceX go through with the launch regardless of approval? Or is this just a classic showdown between SpaceX and the FAA?