FAA to start new environmental review for Florida SpaceX Starship launches

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it intends to start a new environmental review for future Starship launches from Florida.

The decision to start a new review comes after SpaceX has made changes and wants to build new infrastructure and ship upgrades, something the FAA did not consider during the first review in 2019.

Some of those infrastructure changes will obviously include a new launch mount, as the previous legs were recently torn down. This will give SpaceX more room to install a water deluge system that could be similar to or possibly more complex than what they use at Starbase.

Other proposed changes include a natural gas liquefaction system, deluge ponds for excess water, and an air separation unit to generate propellant. None of these were in the original 2019 review and now need to be considered before SpaceX can begin new construction.

Another interesting bit of information tucked into the notice was the potential changes to Starship. The original review accounted for 24 Starship/Super Heavy launches a year using a Starship with up to 7 Raptor engines and a Super Heavy booster using up to 31 Raptor engines. The new review will account for up to 44 Starship/Super Heavy launches per year but with a Starship with up to 9 Raptor engines and a Super Heavy booster with up to 35 Raptor engines, which could be the Version 3 Starship recently announced by Elon Musk.

A SpaceX render of two launch towers at Starbase that could be duplicated at LC-39A (Credit SpaceX)

The new review will also consider adding another Super Heavy catch tower at Kennedy Space Center, which would also be capable of catching Starship. SpaceX had intended to use Landing Zone 1, but this is no longer an option as that area has been leased out to two other launch companies for future rocket launch pads.

Due to this new review, the FAA will also conduct 2 in-person meetings on June 12th and 13th in Cape Canaveral and at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, respectively. There will also be a virtual meeting on June 17th, with a notice to be provided to the public closer to the date.

Meanwhile, during this review, the United States Space Force is simultaneously conducting their own Starship/Super Heavy launch pad review for a potential launch site at either Space Launch Complex 37 or a potential new pad, Space Launch Complex 50, which would be between SLC 37 and SLC 40.

The FAA did not mention when they expected this new review to be completed, but the review by the U.S. Space Force is expected to be completed by September 2025.

Do you think the FAA will approve the new upgrades proposed by SpaceX?

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at rangle@teslarati.com, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

Richard Angle: Launch journalist, specializing in launch photography. Based on the Space Coast, a short drive from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pads.
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