New Complaint Rocks SpaceX: Environmental Groups Call for Review of Starship’s Impact

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SpaceX Starship
SpaceX Starship

There is an awakening among environmental activists about the ecological impacts of rocket launching by concerned rocket launchers as they harm the environment. For example, SpaceX is facing more scrutiny from environmental groups that are concerned about harm to critical habitats near rocket launching sites. Space News reported that several ecological groups announced Friday a new complaint about the environmental impacts of SpaceX’s Starship launches from Starbase, the company’s facility in far Southern Texas.

SpaceX should uphold the same environmental standards we expect from other industries. It’s ironic that the effort to visit other planets is trashing sensitive habitats here at home — including those that are essential to threatened wildlife like the piping plover. We’re asking again that protections be upheld for this and other threatened species.

Michael J. Parr, president of American Bird Conservancy.

In the complaint, the groups allege the Federal Aviation Administration failed to properly review the environmental impacts of the first Starship launch before issuing a revised license for the second launch that took place on November 18, 2023. Failing to do an in-depth environment review & letting SpaceX keep launching the world’s largest rockets that repeatedly explode shows a shocking disregard for wildlife & communities.

The Carrizo/Comecrudo people won’t stand by and watch as Boca Chica is used as a sacrifice zone for SpaceX rockets. Boca Chica is sacred and central to our creation story. We won’t let imperialist policies threaten our cultural heritage. It is ludicrous that the FAA continues to ignore its legal duties based on erroneous and biased information provided by SpaceX.

Juan Mancias, tribal chair of the Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation of Texas, Inc.

The complainant groups are: Center for Biological Diversity, American Bird Conservancy, Carrizo/Commecrudo Nation of Texas, SaveRGV, & Surfrider Foundation. The ecological groups argued in their lawsuit that the agency allowed Elon Musk’s company to bypass important environmental reviews because of political & financial influence. While ecological groups condemn the government for not doing enough to protect the environment from Starship launches, others have argued those agencies are doing too much.

Regulators are playing Russian roulette with one of the most critical and sensitive habitats for migratory birds in the country. Failing to do an in-depth environmental review and letting SpaceX keep launching the world’s largest rockets that repeatedly explode shows a shocking disregard for wildlife and communities. SpaceX should not be given free rein to use this amazing area as a sacrifice zone.

Jared Margolis, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity

The FAA is overseeing a SpaceX-led investigation into the second Starship launch on November 18, 2023. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) has not set a timetable for completing that investigation.

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Approving a massive rocket test launch facility only steps from our state park and national wildlife refuge is unconscionable. This failed launch shows the extent of damage, not just to our wildlife and sensitive eco-system, but to our residential, recreational and tourist communities. The noise, debris, vibrations and explosion proved far too extreme to not be given full environmental assessment by the FAA and Fish and Wildlife Service. Failure to do so is pure negligence and exhibits a blatant disregard for our community life.

Mary Angela Branch, board member at Save RGV

NASA has growing concerns that the lunar lander version of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle will not be ready in time for the Artemis 3 mission in late 2025, given the amount of work needed to get the vehicle ready.

The Surfrider Foundation has concerns about Starship Super Heavy launches and ongoing impacts to the coastal and marine environments in the area. The test launch in April resulted in a massive debris field that extended into the Gulf of Mexico and both of the most recent test launches ended with rapid unscheduled disassembly of the launch vehicles with uncontrolled impacts. Surfrider also has ongoing concerns that operations continue to frequently shut down public access to Boca Chica Beach and the only road to it, Highway 4. This affects visitors and nearby residents, including those from Latinx, Chicanx, Indigenous and low-income communities.

Sarah Damron, senior regional manager for the Southeast, Texas and Great Lakes region for the Surfrider Foundation.

It may be noted here in India too the fishermen at Thumba, near Thiruvananthapuram, had similar complaints about fishing because of rocket launching from TERLs (Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station). At that time, the late Dr. Vikram Sarabhai promptly instructed the officials to take precautionary measures & the rocket launching program went on smoothly. Overall sentiment is that space exploration should not be done at the cost of ecological imbalance.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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