SpaceX Texas launch site approval review halted

SpaceX’s request for an expansion of its South Texas launch pad was put on hold by the US Army Corps of Engineers after the company failed to provide the requested information, another potential delay for Elon Musk’s aerospace company.

The Army Corps told SpaceX in a letter March 7 that it had completed reviewing an application for a secondary launch and landing site along with other launch support infrastructure for the Boca Chica site.

“Without the requested information, the permitting process cannot proceed,” Lynda Yezzi, Army Corps chief of public affairs for Galveston District, said in an email to Bloomberg on Wednesday.

According to the letter, after the data has been transmitted, the process can be resumed. SpaceX and Musk did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment on the permitting process.

The launch company, formerly Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is building its reusable Starship rocket system at the Texas site near the Gulf of Mexico and the US border, where it also plans to launch the massive new spacecraft, the largest in commercial space history.

SpaceX filed an application in December 2020 to change its existing wetland permit for the Boca Chica site, which it received in 2015. The company has grown significantly at the site over the last seven years, with several buildings and large tents for research, engineering, manufacturing and assembly work. SpaceX has also conducted several high-altitude test flights there to prepare Starship for orbital testing.

In its letter, the Army Corps listed some of the information officials are seeking. These include “the presence, quantity and quality or function of any wetlands and/or other bodies of water in the United States” and any impacts related to SpaceX’s plans; data on endangered or threatened species; and any historic objects at the site that are “eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.”

The Federal Aviation Administration is also conducting a separate environmental review of SpaceX’s plans for the site — an area important to fish and wildlife — and has delayed its report multiple times. The agency plans to release its findings by April 29.

A coalition of environmentalists and other groups have opposed the launch site, citing potential harm to wildlife and public safety.

In February, Musk said the company would launch Starship from its Cape Canaveral, Fla., location if regulators don’t approve its plans in Texas. The company uses this site for Falcon 9 rocket launches and has all the necessary regulatory approvals there, Musk said.

Bloomberg reporter Dana Hull contributed to this report.

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