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Should SpaceX exit Texas with Starship?

September 27, 2023

SpaceX is struggling to gain environmental permissions to launch its Starship rocket from Boca Chica, South Texas. There are already plans to expand its operations at Cape Canaveral/Kennedy Spacve Center, but a serious suggestion has been made to consider a more radical solution.

Journalist Eliana Sheriff – who lives in Texas and is a very close watcher of all-things SpaceX and a former TV news anchor but now a full-time YouTube space blogger behind Ellie in Space – says, quite reasonably, that SpaceX should go a few miles south of the border and adopt Mexico as a launch site, or adopt another new country altogether or focus entirely on Kennedy/Florida (which is already wholly approved environmentally for launches) or build a launch rig in the style of Sea Launch.

Sheriff commented: “People need to understand there’s a reason SpaceX tested and proved Falcon 1 from Kwajalein Atoll (in the Marshall Islands in the North Pacific, measuring just 6 square miles), and well out of the way, before they could launch closer to home.”

She added that it isn’t Texas that’s the problem: “What we really need to focus on is the continued support and efforts working in tandem between FAA, SpaceX and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to keep a better launch cadence in Texas. It would be nice to see a sense of urgency from all parties involved.”

Her words generated a slew of comments, ranging from “saving a couple of crabs” is not acceptable, to “the swamp land around Boca Chica is owned by the State of Texas. FWS only manages it under a contract with the state. The State of Texas should explore options for ending FWS management of the land if it becomes an issue,” or “Texas is still the best option for testing Starship. Regulatory hurdles are low here, and it is about as close to the equator as you can get (this matters). Do not for one second think NASA or Vandenberg want explosions at their facilities. It would halt all activities. This is all part of the game. It sucks, but it comes with the territory. Mexico would probably be no better. Look at Giga Mexico’s progress. Also, does Mexico even have a space program and regulatory commission? If not, imagine the time frame to create one.”

There’s little doubt that a potential 30-135 day delay to obtaining FWS permissions is a major blow to SpaceX and its plans for Starship.

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