The FAA now plans to release the Final Environmental Assessment on June 13, 2022 to account for ongoing interagency consultations.
May 31, 2022 The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday again delayed completing a final environmental assessment of the proposed SpaceX Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket program in Boca Chica, Texas until June 13 in their latest statement.
In late April, the FAA extended the target date to May 31 for a decision, saying it was "working toward issuing the final Programmatic Environmental Assessment" after several delays. The agency said in April that SpaceX had made multiple changes to its application that required additional FAA analysis.
SpaceX CEO said in February he was "highly confident" his new SpaceX Starship, designed for voyages to the moon and Mars, would reach Earth orbit for the first time this year. Even in a "worst-case" scenario, in which a full environmental impact statement was required or legal wrangling over the issue threatened to drag on - Elon Musk
In the Meantime, Starship S24 was transported to SpaceX’s Starbase, Texas orbital launch site (OLS) on May 26th after about two and a half months of assembly, marking the first time SpaceX transported a new Starship prototype to a test stand since August 2021.
Elon Musk stated they planned to fly Starship’s first orbital test flight in July 2021. SpaceX has since been waiting on the FAA to finish its review of the environmental impacts Starship would have surrounding Starbase, since the FAA published the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for the SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program at the SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Site in Cameron County, Texas (Draft PEA) on September 17, 2021, for public review and comment.
The FAA also released 17,000 comments Tuesday that show concerns raised about the project's impact on migratory birds, endangered species, and a nearby wildlife refuge
NASA provides special expertise with respect to potential environmental impacts from space launches and the operation of a launch site.
NASA also has special expertise and interest in the operation of reusable suborbital and orbital launch vehicles through its programs, which are intended to help foster the development of the commercial reusable suborbital and orbital space transportation industry. Additionally, NASA uses Space Act Agreements and contracts, as well as competitions to promote technology development and demonstration. NASA's partnerships with commercial suppliers and private enterprises are expanding, such that NASA may have a direct or indirect contribution to a commercial or government payload. For these reasons, NASA requested to be a cooperating agency in the development of this Environmental Assessment.
SpaceX’s Florida Starship backup plan
Musk foresees a backup plan would move Starship operations over to Florida at his most recent update.
The company would shift its entire Starship program to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, if FAA’s release of the final PEA doesn’t guarantee SpaceX will get permission to launch Starship from Starbase. Where SpaceX already has received the environmental approval it needs.
Such a move would cause a setback of six to eight months, he added. In any case, SpaceX is still aiming for a 2023 launch of what it calls the world's first private lunar mission, flying aboard a Starship to loop around the moon and return to Earth.
“LC-49 has been a part of Kennedy’s master plan for several years,” said Tom Engler, Kennedy’s director of Center Planning and Development. “The Notice of Availability was updated in 2014.”