Environmental groups in the US have asked the FAA to investigate SpaceX’s Boca Chica facilities in southern Texas. Boca Chica is home to SpaceX’s Starship – a prototype rocket designed to ferry humans to and from Mars. Seven groups have co-signed a letter asking the FAA for a full-scale environmental assessment of the facility.
The SpaceX site has seen a number of launchpad explosions that have raised concerns about the site’s impact on local wildlife.
According to a report by Border Report, the FAA has been accused of failing to regulate the frequent tests at the site.
The FAA has, however, said current rocket testing at the site falls within the parameters of an environmental assessment carried out in 2014.
In 2014, the Boca Chica site was approved by the FAA for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket testing.
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But the Elon Musk owned company has moved on to Starship development with its sights firmly set on Mars.
The letter to the FAA, dated July 3, reads: “SpaceX’s actions now are significantly different and greater in scope than the project the FAA authorized in its 2014 Record of Decision (ROD), and these actions are having significantly greater human and environmental impacts.
“Most of the 2014 data and analysis is now not only invalid but wrong and misleading.
“The construction, testing and firing of the massive Starship and Heavy Booster will have much greater impacts.”
We need the FAA to do its due diligence
Paul Sanchez-Navarro, Defenders of Wildlife
Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity told Border Report a deeper level of analysis of the site is needed “before allowing them to carry on with their testing”.
Concerns were also raised by Jim Chapman, president of the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, who said the FAA has not yet committed to a full-scale Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The Boca Chica site is located next to the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Along a secluded 10,860-acre tract is a so-called “wildlife corridor” that connects habitats along the Gulf Coast to the Rio Grande.
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The nature reserve is one of the few places where Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, the most endangered sea turtle in the world, lay their eggs.
Mr Chapman said: “The reason for the letter is really to urge the FAA to do a new EIS because SpaceX has completely changed its mission at Boca Chica and the impacts not only are going to be different but they are going to be greater so the old EIS is really at this point obsolete because it’s really a very different project right now.”
Earlier this month the FAA said it would carry out an investigation of the Boca Chica facility.
An FAA official said in an email: “The current testing falls within the current EIS.
“However, a full-scale Starship launch site falls outside the scope of the 2014 EIS.
“The FAA is in the early stages of an environmental review.
“Any proposal must meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the FAA’s policies and procedures for conducting a NEPA review.”
On June 7, Mr Musk took to Twitter to declare Boca Chica a “Starship Production Complex”.
And in March, the South African billionaire said SpaceX is designing its facilities to build a Starship rocket every 72 hours.
Environmentalists are concerned about the impact these operations will have on the area.
Paul Sanchez-Navarro of Defenders of Wildlife said: “SpaceX is operating in one of the most pristine stretches of the Texas coast, in an area that is rich with biological diversity and home to numerous endangered species, including ocelot and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.
“We need the FAA to do its due diligence as a regulatory agency and ensure that the company minimizes and mitigates the impacts of its project on this special place.”
Express.co.uk has asked SpaceX for a comment.
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