San Francisco: Elon Musk's SpaceX has received environment clearance from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for developing and testing its giant Starship rocket launch vehicle in Texas.
The review, known as a programmatic environmental assessment (PEA), which gauged the environmental impacts of SpaceX's Starbase site, concluded that the company's plans would not result in significant impacts to the environment.
The FAA's assessment of SpaceX's Starbase launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, concluded that SpaceX's plans would not result in significant impacts to the environment.
It has, however, asked SpaceX to make more than 75 changes to its proposal for the Starbase facility to mitigate environmental impacts from its proposed plan. SpaceX cannot launch the orbital test mission without a passing grade from the final PEA. The licence application is still pending.
SpaceX also must meet FAA safety, risk, and financial responsibility requirements before a licence is issued for any launch activities.
"One step closer to the first orbital flight test of Starship," SpaceX responded to the PEA release in a tweet.
The more than 75 actions the FAA listed include things SpaceX can do to address its impact on air quality, sound levels, and access to the nearby beach. The company will need to provide more advanced notice of its launches to local authorities and the general public.
SpaceX also cannot conduct road closures during more than a dozen identified holidays, and it can only close the road up to five weekends a year. The FAA also wants SpaceX to continue to monitor changes to the local wildlife populations, such as the sea turtles that nest in the area.
It has also asked the company to make donations to local wildlife groups and to monitor and adjust lighting at the launch site to avoid disorienting turtle hatchlings.
SpaceX is developing Starship to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond. NASA has already signed on, picking Starship as the first crewed lunar landing system for its Artemis moon programme.
The vehicle consists of two elements: a first-stage booster called Super Heavy and an upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship. Starship consists of two elements, a spacecraft called Starship and a giant first-stage booster known as Super Heavy. Both will be fully reusable, and both will be powered by Raptors, six for the final Starship and 29 for Super Heavy. —IANS