The FAA has postponed the finish of the Starship environmental review

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)¬†says an environmental study of orbital launches for SpaceX Starship¬†from its Boca Chica, Texas, the site will take at least two months longer. The FAA announced on December 28 that it would be unable to fulfill an intended December 31 deadline for completing an environmental evaluation of SpaceX’s plans to launch its Starship/Super Heavy rocket into orbit from the Boca Chica site known as Starbase. A PEA (Programmatic Environmental Assessment) is an essential prerequisite for getting an FAA launch license, which is required for such launches.

“However, the FAA is reporting a change to the timetable due to the substantial volume of comments filed on the Draft PEA, deliberations, and consultation activities with consultative parties,” the FAA wrote on its website. “The FAA now aims to issue the Final PEA on 28th February 2022,” according to the statement.

The FAA received almost 18,000 public comments in response to the report’s draft version, which was issued in September. Under the oversight of the FAA, SpaceX is trying to react to those public comments, according to the agency, which did not provide any other information on the review of the remarks. In October, two public hearings on the assessment drew a flood of comments, both favorable and critical of SpaceX’s ambitions.

Consultations with various government agencies are also part of the environmental evaluation process. Those consultations, according to the FAA, include endangered species and historical site preservation. Because the environmental evaluation has been postponed, the FAA launch license for the Starship/Super Heavy orbital deployments from Boca Chica has been delayed. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, indicated in November that he planned to have the launch license by the end of 2021, with the first orbital flight scheduled for January or early February of the year 2022.

Even if the environmental study and licensing process were finished as scheduled, it is unclear whether SpaceX was going to be ready for the orbital launch try on that timeframe. Musk claimed in November that in December, SpaceX would conduct a “bunch of tests” on the Starship vehicle as well as its Super Heavy rocket, although several of those tests, such as static burns, have yet to take place. There’s also no assurance that the new deadline of February 28 won’t be extended once more. An environmental evaluation of a prospective launch facility in Georgia, Spaceport Camden, was delayed for months before the FAA granted the facility a spaceport license on December 20.

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