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SpaceX app to expand Starship Texas facilities withdrawn by USACE

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Spacecraft prototype 20 stacked on top of the Super Heavy 4 booster at the company’s facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX

The US Army Corps of Engineers has withdrawn SpaceX’s request to expand launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, after the company failed to provide environmental information requested by the agency, documents show. obtained by CNBC.

SpaceX was seeking approvals to build a new launch pad, landing pad and other launch-related infrastructure that would support its existing reusable launch operations at South Texas facilities.

The expansion would have been built on approximately 17 acres including wetlands and mudflats.

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for monitoring wetland development under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. In this role, the Corps ensures that developers do not harm natural resources and drinking water, or cause stress to endangered species and their habitat when alternative sites or approaches could be used instead. .

In a letter to SpaceX dated March 7, 2022, the US Army Corps of Engineers said that after repeated requests for specific environmental impact information, Elon Musk’s aerospace company had not clarified how it could build its facilities differently, or if it could locate them elsewhere to minimize damage to wetlands, water and wildlife. Bloomberg previously reported on withdrawal.

The agency noted that on February 10, 2022, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk held a press conference where he explained that if regulatory approvals do not move forward in Texas, it would allow the company to expand its Starship and Super Heavy rocket tests and launch soon. , it would shift much of SpaceX’s operations to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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If that were to happen, Musk said at the time, SpaceX would turn its Boca Chica assets into a research and development facility.

The Corps told SpaceX that it may relaunch its app if it still wants to continue expanding the vertical launch zone. The Corps did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether SpaceX had responded or submitted the requested information in the past month. SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the news.

In a parallel review process, an environmental engineer who blogs under the handle ESG Hound reported, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has expressed similar concerns. FWS submitted comments to the Federal Aviation Administration stating that SpaceX failed to provide adequate environmental information to obtain clearance to expand to Boca Chica.

SpaceX has conducted several high-altitude flight tests with its spacecraft prototypes, but its next major step is to reach space. Starship is the spacecraft the company is developing to one day embark on a mission to Mars. Progress on the company’s Starship was delayed on several fronts last year, and an orbital flight test is now awaiting regulatory approval.

SpaceX still needs a license from the Federal Aviation Administration to continue flight testing, and a separate key environmental assessment is still pending.

Here is the letter: