(Bloomberg) — Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. suffered a blow to its goal of launching its massive Starship rocket from Boca Chica, Texas, early next year when U.S. regulators delayed a planned environmental review by two months, to Feb. 28.
The Federal Aviation Administration intended to release a final Programmatic Environmental Assessment by Dec. 31. But SpaceX, under the supervision of the FAA, is currently responding to more than 18,000 public comments, and the FAA is continuing consultation and coordination with other agencies.
SpaceX’s Boca Chica location, at the southern end of Texas near the Mexican border, is the company’s assembly site for its new massive, fully reusable Starship rocket system, designed to take human beings to the Moon and Mars. It’s also key to SpaceX’s efforts to loft additional Starlink satellites into orbit.
NASA also plans to use Starship as part of its Artemis program to return astronauts to the Moon later this decade.
The Boca Chica site is near an area important to fish and wildlife, including sea turtles and migratory birds. A coalition of 11 environmental groups signed a Nov. 1 public letter asking the FAA to scrutinize SpaceX’s proposed expansion in the area. The groups said the site is adjacent to an ecologically unique region that includes a national wildlife refuge, tidal flats for several bird species and beaches used by nesting sea turtles.
SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility is a key piece of Musk’s growing Texas empire, which includes Tesla’s new auto plant in Austin, Texas.
— By Dana Hull