The FAA once again moved the date for when it intends to release the final Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) for launching Starship from SpaceX’s Starbase facility. Initially intended for today, the administration is now looking to release Starbase’s PEA on June 13, or “in two weeks.”
Surprising no one, the FAA is delaying its environmental review on launching its massive Starship rocket from SpaceX’s Starbase Texas facility. However, the delay isn’t as considerable as previous delays have been, now only being pushed back two weeks, leading to jokes that the FAA is on “Elon Time” now.
We’re coming on almost a year since 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. The FAA has consulted with several government agencies and listened to public opinion (which was flooded with Musk fandom). Now we are just waiting for the FAA to release its decision, slated for Monday, June 13.
SpaceX’s Florida Starship backup plan
The FAA’s release of the final PEA doesn’t guarantee SpaceX will get permission to launch Starship from Starbase. If that is the case, Elon Musk stated that the backup plan would move Starship operations over to Florida at his most recent update.
SpaceX has already begun constructing a second orbital launch mount within the fence of LC-39A, which it already gained approval to do in an older environmental review. Construction of the launch tower segments, very similar to what we see in Starbase, have been seen at SpaceX’s Hanger X facility. Hanger X is where the company refurbishes and stores its Falcon 9 boosters at Kennedy Space Center. Hanger X is also where SpaceX previously produced ring sections for the Starship Mark II prototype.
SpaceX has also shown interest in Kennedy Space Center’s proposed LC-49, north of LC-39B. NASA is currently in the process of conducting another environmental review for SpaceX to build two Starship launch sites. In the long term, SpaceX would like to launch Starship vehicles from floating platforms. The company owns two, currently being refurbished in the Port of Pascagoula, but very little is known about their future.
Musk is confident in Starship PEA approval
Musk has remained confident that the final PEA will approve SpaceX to launch Starship from Starbase. However, there is still a chance the FAA could request a complete environmental impact statement. This is where that Florida fallback plan would come in handy as an impact statement could be an extremely lengthy process, delaying any launch from Starbase until that is complete.
For all the Starship fans awaiting the first fully stacked Starship Super Heavy launch (of which we are too), we might just have to wait a little longer for it to happen. Remember to keep expectations low because even if they get approval from the FAA, SpaceX will still need to actually do it, which could take some time.