The Federal Aviation Administration’s environmental review of SpaceX’s plan to launch its Starship rocket from South Texas is expected to finish March 28, the agency said Monday.
It was the second delay for the review, which will assess the impact of launch operations on the area around Boca Chica, Texas, adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico and a wildlife refuge for migratory birds and other species, some of them endangered. The FAA had originally planned to finish its review by the end of 2021 but said the volume of public comments—more than 19,000—had affected its schedule.
The FAA is also “continuing consultation and coordination with other agencies” on the review, an FAA spokesman said Monday in an email. Besides the environmental review, SpaceX must also obtain a launch license for a test flight and others it conducts from Texas. Starship is the largest rocket in development, planned to have more thrust and payload capacity than the Saturn V, which was previously the largest rocket.
Last week, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the company was expecting news of the FAA decision in March and wanted to have the rocket ready to fly within two months of a decision. The company, based in Hawthorne, California, also plans to launch Starship from Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it already has launch approval, Musk said.