FAA sued over Starship incident

Environmental associations have filed a sued against the FAA over the explosive launch of the Starship and activities at SpaceX's Starbase

A coalition of environmentalists has sued the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over the launch of Starship. According to their opinion, the agency did not analyze the environmental damage that SpaceX may have caused in the Boca Chica region. The lawsuit, filed on May 1 in federal court in Washington, also revealed that the FAA has authorized SpaceX to conduct 20 Starship launches each year for the next five years.

Reasons and associations involved

First of these launches occurred on April 20 from the Starbase, SpaceX’s site on the southern Gulf coast of Texas near Boca Chica Beach. The 120-meter-tall spacecraft initially performed well during the test flight and managed to reach a maximum altitude of 39 kilometers. Giant spacecraft then experienced several problems that forced SpaceX to command the destruction of the vehicle over the Gulf of Mexico.

The explosion caused particulate matter to rain down on the surrounding area, according to the lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, the American Bird Conservancy, the Surfrider Foundation, Save RGV, and the Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation of Texas. “SpaceX’s Boca Chica launch site is surrounded by state parks, National Wildlife Refuge lands, and important habitat for endangered wildlife” the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in a statement (ref.).

“Rocket launches and explosions cause significant harm due to intense heat, noise, and light pollution from construction and launch activities. Rocket explosions have also scattered debris into surrounding habitats and caused fires” they added. According to the lawsuit, SpaceX’s activities also impact the area’s residents. For example, Boca Chica Beach is public, but the FAA permit allows SpaceX to close access to it for up to 800 hours per year.

The words of the spokesperson of the Carrizo people

“The sacred lands of the Carrizo/Comecrudo people are once again threatened by imperialist policies. These treat our cultural heritage as a less valuable asset than corporate interests” said Juan Mancias, tribal president of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation of Texas. “Boca Chica is central to the history of our people,” added Mancias. “We have been cut off from the land on which our ancestors lived. SpaceX is using our ancestral lands as a sacrificial zone for its rockets”.

The sued calls on the FAA to conduct a complete environmental review of activities related to the Starship in southern Texas. “It is crucial to protect life on Earth as we look to the stars” said Jared Margolis, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Federal officials should defend vulnerable wildlife and communities, not favor corporate interests that use precious coastal landscapes as a dumping ground for space waste”.

We can only wait for the beginning of the lawsuit and, in the meantime, study the FAA’s response that will not be long in coming. Certainly, this is an additional obstacle that SpaceX must overcome to continue its space tests in the eastern Texas area. For this and other reasons, Elon Musk‘s company, anticipating these issues, is duplicating the Starbase in Florida, at the Kennedy Space Center.

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