SpaceX rivals challenge Starship launch license in Florida over environmental, safety concerns

Apr 22, 2024
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FAA's non sequitur defense of SpaceX environmental damage far beyond what was foreseen in the self-made environmental impact assessment that was rubberstamped by the FAA, claiming Starship is important for US space ambitions, is a nice example of regulatory capture.
 
Some of the complaints about environmental impacts seem overblown. For instance, the New York Times "report" included something about "all 9 of the bird nests" in an impacted area at Boca Chica were destroyed by the first flight. But, putting that in context, how many bird nests are destroyed when the average shopping center is built? Probably a lot more than 9.

Similar misrepresentations are being made about the fresh water being used to protect the launch pad. The propellants used in these SpaceX rockets are not really contaminants. But, the kerosene that ULA uses in its Atlas rockets are serious contaminants. And the exhausts of the burned propellants are basically CO2 and water.

The real issues for the Kennedy Space Flight Center are the size of the explosion for a failure on the pad, the potential for an explosive fuel+air mixture if cold methane is spilled in large quantity, and the potential for damage when a reusable vehicle is landing.

At this point, the liquified methane risk is probably being over compensated by the FAA and NASA, and they need to take a look at what is really prudent and what are excessive precautions. We already have sea going ships carrying even more of the same liquified methane material docking and loading/off-loading at port facilities all over the world. Making realistic safety areas is crucial to making proper use of the space flight facilities already there and then deciding if expansions are needed.

And, remember that a landing SuperHeavy booster is not carrying much fuel at all. The explosion potential is not so great for the landing operation. Comparing that risk to the risk of Boeing 737 Max airliners flying low over residential communities as they approach and take off from airports is probably a reasonable basis for making a decision.

But, that requires some data on the reliability of the SpaceX landing practices, which we do not have, yet. And, I agree that experience needs to be gained at Boca Chica before SuperHeavy and StarShip should be allowed to launch and land at the Florida facilities.
 
Jul 10, 2024
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United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin have cited safety and environmental factors in challenges to SpaceX's launch license for Starship at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX rivals challenge Starship launch license in Florida over environmental, safety concerns : Read more
I would like to see a formal environmental impact study on our planet's ionosphere in regards to punching many large holes as frequently as more than 44 times per year, the results are not as benign as some say they are
 
The study of the atmospheric impact of space launches and re-entries should be done, but not limited to StarShip or SpaceX. If the demand is there, the launches will happen, and it really doesn't matter that much what company or nation is doing it with what rocket. The exhaust gases from most rockets are pretty much water, CO2 and maybe some nitric oxides for the rockets that still use hypergolic fuels. The reentries put all sorts of stuff into the atmosphere.
 
Jun 24, 2024
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Why would we be surprised at scalawags clawing at the seams of royalty in the hopes of gaining a crumb from the King's table? Lawyers vie with fiction writers for the fantasist trophy for whoever can fabricate the most contused, Gordian Knot rationales for obstructing progress.

Meanwhile, others drops rockets out of the sky willy-nilly, trailing brown clouds of toxins. Same story, different day.
 
Apr 22, 2024
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Some of the complaints about environmental impacts seem overblown. For instance, the New York Times "report" included something about "all 9 of the bird nests" in an impacted area at Boca Chica were destroyed by the first flight. But, putting that in context, how many bird nests are destroyed when the average shopping center is built? Probably a lot more than 9.
That's not how this works.

First, you can find more detailed reports than NYT's, and those nine nests were a random sample of monitored nests that were checked shortly after the launch (wildlife monitors don't have the funding & capacity for a comprehensive survey of the entire area, nor would it be necessary). And what matters is that all nine nests in that sample were affected (altogether 17 out of 22 eggs broken, and predators will find the rest due to the smell of the broken ones in the same nests), which means that almost all nests in the same radius from the launch site in the protected area must have been destroyed.

Second, even if this had been nine nests after a comprehensive check of the entire area, it could be significant: nine nests of a short-lived common bird with millions of specimens is not the same as a long lifecycle endangered species with only a few hundred birds alive.

Third, even if this had been nine nests in the whole area of a common short-lived bird, "protected area" and "protected species" would have to count for something, it should not be something at the digression of a billion-dollar corporation funded by taxpayer money.

(Also, zooming out to the underlying issue, it should not be rival billion-dollar companies funded by taxpayer money that point these things out and try to effect enforcement but federal and local authorities.)
 
m4n8tpr8, I do know how this works. Media with biases cherry pick site specific info and conflates it with other generalized info to make things seem worse of better than an objective appraisal would show. The NYT article smacks of that.

Your post has a lot of "ifs" in it. How about some actual facts? What species were those 9 nests - common or rare or endangered? What were their specific distances from the launch pad? What were the actual damages to the various eggs - smashed, cracked, pushed out of nest, what?

More importantly, what was the effect on those or similar nests at similar distances due to launches after the water system was added to the launch pad? The first launch effects are not something that are planned to be repeated.

The truth is that restricted areas quickly get populated with all sorts of wildlife, basically because people are restricted from being there, so human disturbance is reduced if not eliminated. Some of the restricted areas near where I live are birding hot spots. And, birders get upset when they are denied access on some occasions. And, sometimes that even happens for environmental/ecological reasons, such as a rare, long-lived bird decides to nest there and the restrictions are actually to protect the birds from the birders, not to protect the main government function of that area. There is such a situation in-progress right now where I sometime went for hikes and nature photography.

From what I have read, SpaceX is trying to work with the government to pay for some other, nearby marshlands that will be preserved. If that works out, it is probably the best outcome for the wildlife, because it removes those areas from residential and resort type uses, which are far more devastating to ecosystems than SpaceX rocket launches.
 
experience needs to be gained at Boca Chica before SuperHeavy and StarShip should be allowed to launch and land at the Florida facilities.

Yeah. Much of the environmental impacts will be different by the time SpaceX will launch there. I think this is another case of SpaceX getting into governmental issues because they want to move fast and break things. They should have just waited to apply for the license.
 
I understand why SpaceX applied before they really need the license. Environmental impact studies have been used to delay projects, especially if they can be dragged into a court of law. And, Musk is seeing people come out against him for multiple reasons, including his political statements and his corporation's competitiveness, as well as safety and environmental impact concerns. There are potentially years of delay there. Best to start as early as possible.
 
I think that Musk moving the StarShip project out of the U.S. is unlikely, due to the costs.

But, I think he would do it if he ran into a blockade in the U.S. that would curtail either the development or the applications of his planned technology.

Since it was asked, places I would expect him to consider would include Australia. Argentina and Brazil might also be viable. He would need good transportation infrastructure, so someplace like the Falkland Islands seems out of the question. And, I would expect him to favor an English speaking nation, so that he could transfer most of his team from the U.S.

(My relatives who relocated to Australia love it there.)
 
Jul 11, 2024
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Won't (not likely to) happen. Moving infrastructure costs, and the people to run it, would be astronomical (pun intended).
I agree its not likely, but he could look to launch out of somewhere else that isnt tying him up in litigation. It would be a lose/lose situation, but that may be more palatable than a lose/lose/win (SpaceX/Govt/competitors) scenario.