Civil

FAA Prepares an EIS for Starship KSC Operations

Image: SpaceX

The FAA is planning an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess SpaceX’s proposed modifications for Starship operations at KSC site LC-39A.

The review is considering up to 44 Starship launches at the site each year.

Make room for Starship: SpaceX has used LC-39A since 2014 for Falcon 9 and Heavy launches. NASA already completed the less cumbersome Environmental Assessment (EA) of potential Starship operations at LC-39A in 2019, which evaluated the impact of a new Starship launch pad build-out and a 24-launch-per-year manifest. 

Post-approval, SpaceX began Starship infrastructure construction. 

However, the company’s Starship operations have changed substantially since the original EA, and the agency determined that a new, broader EIS assessment was warranted to evaluate whether the operations would negatively impact the biological or physical environment.  

What’s new?: The new Starship infrastructure requests include:

  • A water deluge system
  • Propellant storage
  • The ability to employ nine engines for its Starship second stage and 35 engines for its booster, up from the six and 33 engines that are currently used
  • A catch tower equipped with metal arms that can swing close and secure a hovering Starship vehicle in midair, enabling reusability

EIS reviews are thorough and typically take north of a year to complete. The agency is opening public scoping hearings next month. 

Back at Starbase: SpaceX aims to launch Starship on flight 4 in three to five weeks. At a recent Starship presentation, Elon Musk said it may also attempt the daunting tower catch at Starbase on flight 5. 

+ FAA learning period: The Senate passed the FAA reauthorization bill on Thursday, which extended the commercial human spaceflight learning period until Jan. 1. 

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