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Friday, October 7, 2022

SpaceX Receives Go-Ahead to Launch Mars Rocket After Winning Environmental Approval

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Monday that there are no environmental roadblocks that may prevent SpaceX from carrying out its ambitions to launch a massive new rocket into orbit from South Texas.

The agency’s environmental study came to the conclusion that SpaceX’s plans for orbital launches would have “no major effect” on the area around the Gulf Coast close to Brownsville, Texas. This was one of the findings of the review. However, in order for the company to begin test flights of Starship, which is a vehicle that is essential to both NASA’s plans to return to the moon and the vision of Elon Musk, the company’s founder and chief executive, to colonise Mars, the Federal Aviation Administration is mandating that the company carry out more than seventy-five different actions to reduce the impact on the surrounding areas.

The actions that need to be taken by Mr. Musk’s company include providing earlier notice of launches, assigning a biologist to monitor the surrounding vegetation and wildlife, coordinating with state and federal agencies to remove launch debris from sensitive habitats, and adjusting lighting to reduce the negative impact on wildlife and a nearby beach.

Because of the mitigation measures that are needed by the F.A.A., a roadway that runs by the SpaceX facility will not be able to be closed during launches. This will allow people to continue to visit the neighbouring beach, park, and wildlife sanctuary. According to the government, the roadway could not be shut down on any of the 18 national holidays or on any more than five weekends each year.

However, other animals, like as ocelots and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, may be seen living in the adjacent marshes. Both of these species are on the verge of extinction. The SpaceX facility is located next to State Highway 4, which also travels past Boca Chica Beach, many Texas state parks, and the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. Environmentalists are concerned that a regular rhythm of Starship launches, each accompanied by explosions of deafening noise and rocket exhaust, as well as the possibility of catastrophic accidents, would have a negative impact on the ecology.

The installation of a solar power farm; the construction of parking lots; the construction of processing facilities that the cargo Starship will carry; and the conducting of additional test flights, which raise the likelihood of additional testing explosions that can send debris and forceful shock waves for miles are among the plans that SpaceX has for Boca Chica that will have an impact on the environment.

A discussion on the economy has also been sparked by the site. In the Brownsville region, where around one third of the population lives below the federal poverty line, many local politicians and locals are excited about the flood of money and reputation that SpaceX is bringing to the area. Others, however, are concerned that gentrification would result in the displacement of long-term inhabitants.

As a result, the FAA demanded that SpaceX do a whole new environmental evaluation before the company could attempt to fly Starship into orbit. After reaching orbit, the Starship stage would next attempt to land in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii, while the Super Heavy rocket would try to make a controlled landing in the Gulf of Mexico. This would take place during the first orbital test flight.

In September, the government agency issued a draught of the paper that indicated there would be no substantial roadblocks that would necessitate SpaceX putting together a full-fledged environmental impact study. It had intended to issue a final version at the end of December but has repeatedly pushed back the schedule, claiming the need to review the 18,000 comments that were made on the preliminary document.

In addition to missions to Mars, the Starship will be utilised by NASA to transport humans from lunar orbit down to the surface of the moon. These missions will take place in the future. Blue Origin, the rocket business that was created by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and the military contractor Dynetics were the two competitors that the company defeated in order to get the contract for the mission. The deal was worth $2.9 billion. On paper, the moon landing is slated to take place in 2025, but there is a good chance that this will be pushed back. The Space Launch System is an additional huge rocket that is currently being developed by NASA and is also behind schedule. In addition to the work being done on Starship, the return of people to the moon needs the Space Launch System.

A Boyle
I cover Science related topics for The National Era
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