SpaceX’s Successful Super Heavy Booster Test with an Unfortunate Outcome

1 min read
Source - NASA

SpaceX’s recent Super Heavy booster test, which saw 31 of the 33 engines ignite simultaneously in what might be the most powerful rocket ignition to date, had an unexpected outcome. Video footage showed a plume of birds fanning and falling out near the booster’s fiery trenches. The location of SpaceX’s Starbase campus in Boca Chica, Texas is next to a wildlife refuge home to endangered species of birds, leading conservationists to argue that the company may be causing harm to the local wildlife. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had previously told SpaceX to make significant changes to its Starbase expansion plans in an environmental impact assessment, and is still awaiting approval before starship can launch.

The FAA representative stated that the Boca Chica Starbase is not licensed by the agency and that the engine test was not a FAA-licensed activity. Futurism reached out to SpaceX for comment, but given Elon Musk’s attitude of not asking for permission, it is unclear whether the impact on local wildlife will delay the approval process further.

Part of the FAA’s concern involves the impact of testing on the local ecology, as the Starbase site is adjacent to the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area. The video of the test showed flocks of birds startling into flight as the booster fired, and the power of the 31 engines also caused loose chunks of the Texas landscape to fall back to Earth.

Elon Musk tweeted that even though one engine shut down during the test, there were still enough engines to reach orbit. He estimates that the first orbital test flight could occur as soon as March if the test analysis and remaining preparations go well. NASA is counting on starship to ferry astronauts to the moon in the coming years and eventually, Musk wants to use the Starships to send crowds to Mars. The first-stage Super Heavy booster stands at 230 feet tall and is capable of generating 17 million pounds of liftoff thrust, almost double that of NASA’s moon rocket.

While the Super Heavy booster test was successful, the unexpected outcome of birds being disturbed highlights the potential impact of testing on the local ecology. The FAA must grant a license to fly before the full starship stack can lift off, and the impact on the local wildlife may play a role in the approval process.

Rahul Somvanshi

Rahul is a filmmaker and photographer, with a passion for environmentally helpful technology, design, and science. Always mindful of climate change's impact, he writes to highlight the latest updates on potential solutions that can benefit the planet.


  1. Respectfully, no. Just no. This whole bird thing is completely wrong. Do you not realize where that camera was positioned?
    Nearly two miles away. The birds appear to be right next to the booster because of the lens compression of foreground and background.
    This is how long lenses work….
    Furthermore, look at the size of the birds compared to the launch tower – there is absolutely no way they are remotely close to the tower for the size that they appear. Even if they were as large as pelicans. They are far, far closer to the camera than the booster. There were some gulls mixed in, but the large flock of darker birds was mostly likely red winged blackbirds and grackles. – look at Ebird to see the common species that hang out there.
    The loud and sporadic venting of the GSE, launch table, and the booster itself would guarantee that there is no wildlife anywhere near. Furthermore the water/sound suppression system kicked in about 20-30 seconds before the booster fired – giving anything in the vicinity plenty of warning/scare.
    Lastly, from all of the other camera angles………there’s no birds in sight.
    Why? Because those birds weren’t remotely close to that booster.

  2. Sigh. Why are the people writing these sensationalist articles so dumb? Can’t they see how stupid they look when they put up a fake story like this?

  3. Chad, thank you. I read this uninformed clickbait and was really hoping to see a comment like yours. I hope others who read the article and feel their outrage machinery starting up will take the time to see what you wrote and realize you’re correct.

  4. These writers only care about a chance to criticise anything Musk is a part of. They don’t bother to fact check their writing before they post it. Shameful.

  5. There is nothing wrong in doing great rocket tests along with responsibly being concerned about nearby environment. After viewing all the angles it is difficult to see anything clearly in the video because in the close shots smoke fills the screen asap, the long shots way too far to spot any thing. The only angle that shows birds being engulfed in the smoke and blast is a medium shot. And after knowing and realizing the significance of the venue i.e. near wildlife hotspot, precautions can always be taken. IT JUST TAKES A LOUD SOUND TO DISPERSE THE BIRDS AWAY.

    If nothing is harmed, then authorities or concerned officials should clarify it. I don’t think, being sensitive and critical about nature is wrong, and how will any mission improve & reach optimum results with out criticism.

  6. Science vs Nature. I Believe science should win. The birds do not seem close to the launch area. In the future loud firecracker or two could be used. Everyday in Aviation, birds are impacted by airlines flying. Do we stop all air transportation? This is nonsense an if birds are that endangered then they should be moved to a zoo were they can reproduce an be cared for properly by veterinarians!

  7. I fully agree with the majority of the comments I’ve seen here (thankfully there are still intelligent people left in this world!). Those birds were no where as close as they appeared to the Sensationalism Journalism article here.
    Telephoto, zoom, etc, change everything.

  8. All those people that want to board and go to the Moon they can all go to hell as far as I’m concerned. If the FAA ever quote unquote approves this stuff, people are going to go up and get thrown off the ship and the ship comes back to base.
    Have been studying Elon muskan management class lately, and I have concluded he’s just a madman. The government pays him to do this, so he invents all the strange stuff. Hard to believe that this stuff goes on in a scientific world. I ALSO THINK HE PROBABLY HAS CORONAVIRUS where’s going to find the cure, in the lab in the space station? I mean these kinds of people are so removed from reality that they have it in their minds that you can make meat in the laboratory and sell it and it’s okay. They’re so removed from nature and they’re so removed from creation, but if you want to follow him to the edge where they can just fall off and never come back who cares?

  9. For the last 40 years trains go through the middle of a large wooded area near our house. Every single time a train runs through birds scatter in all directions. We have a very healthy number of every local species of bird in that wooded area. I moved here 40 years ago, the forest and the railroad have been in that spot since at least the 1840’s. Someone better get a reality check real fast. The birds are fine, just acting normally!

  10. It doesn’t matter what is done, there will always be someone complaining about something when it comes to the steps in evolution.

  11. I completely agree with everyone except Jon suck, I mean Duck. Let me guess you probably think the earth is flat too. Elon Musk is genius. Ignorant people always mistake genius for insanity. At least he is trying. Trying to make sure the human race survives the inevitable outcome of an extinction level event. It’s not “if” it’s “when” 100%. If we don’t become an interplanetary species we will just be gone like the many times it’s already happened. Learn our history, our real history. Look how many life ending impacts sites they have discovered. What’s that one thing history always dose 🤔 oh yeah, it repeats itself. Such a small minded person. You must have a fantastic life though. You know with ignorance being bliss.

  12. So a lot of ppl are saying, no matter the impact each “test” does to the planet and life on it, it’s good for science? Are you f-ing kidding me!? How about the brilliant minds instead of joy riding to the moon and mars causing who can guess what more kind of problems in the near future for this planet, try and find solutions to help repair or at least stop any more things to go wrong where we live for God sake. How about a test sight near your back yard? Like to hear all you Musketeers back his brilliance then. I can appreciate exploration to the moon then Mars, it’s exciting I would love to see ppl land on Mars before I die. But with what cost to our environment or other life than human?

  13. There is an easy solution to this problem too, even if they were close. Vineyards now use automated bird lasers to frighten birds away. Those could be easily employed here.

  14. Nice to see all the trumpers out in full “kill the environment” mode. I hope musk hurries up and gets this bfr off to Mars with him in it. And he can take all you trumpers with him.

  15. Hey Jim,
    Got a bit of the I hate Trump sickness American? Everything spins around Trump in some peoples world. Well how are the Trump haters going to blame him for all the wildlife that will be destroyed when those windmills cover the seas and land? I personally do not want Trump to run again but dear Jim please do not let your hate for him blind you from the truth. Seems like Trump hate is all some have to justify a perspective they do not like. Kind of a zombie mindset when you think about it. Very shallow thinking. Jim… the truth is out there and it has nothing to do with “Trump did it” syndrome. Please try looking past your own nose at some point in time. You just may find a life after the “Trump did it” syndrome passes.

  16. I’ve killed a few birds and a squirrel or two while driving. Lots of bugs too. We probably need to stop using vehicles. Eesh, clickbait much Rahul?

  17. im glad to see the previous comments reflect how inflammatory this article is. Not a single brid can be seen “falling out of the sky”. Clearly they’re at least 2 miles away, only appear in between the furthest shot taken, and all of them appear unharmed. Go F#(X yourselves for publishing this. You should be ashamed. You’re literally pissing in the face of the freedom of the press. Other countries have made these types of publications illegal for how libelous they are. You’re either a hack (and I hope you know it) or you were miss lead. In the case of the later please retract this article.

  18. People like John duck just quack me up. I’m willing to bet that given his hatred of you on musk and his belief that there’s nothing up there they’re just going to throw people off the rocket and he also believes that the Earth is flat. That takes some serious levels of mental gymnastics to dismiss technology while leaving a comment on a website about technology using a smartphone. It would get fairly obvious that people aren’t being delivered to the Moon if there’s nobody on the moon at the colony basis being set up there so no Elon musk is not going to throw people off the starship. As for birds that look more like debris kicked up, and if it was a flock of birds they were nowhere near the launch site because those would be some pterodactyl size beasties if they were that large compared to the tower.

  19. Just more people against the only company trying, and succeeding, to get America back into space on our own terms.

  20. Visually this mayb be somewhat misleading. The birds may not have been very close. However the sound alone could be quite deafening. Some call this click-bait, but may miss the point. Need to look at the evidence.

    Sound is made by disturbance in the air. It become a physical phenomenon. It dissipates over distance. The question becomes what is a safe distance?

  21. “SpaceX’s Starbase campus in Boca Chica, Texas is next to a wildlife refuge home to endangered species of birds, leading conservationists to argue that the company may be causing harm to the local wildlife.”
    So the defendants of political culture will take the assumed side, but the base is near a wildlife refuge, there are endangered birds there, we see birds in the vicinity, so this time (according to the eye witnesses commenting) there were no birds affected. Given all of the elements that are known to exist, I think ” may be causing harm”, is at least an educated guess, if not a predictable outcome…

  22. This space stuff beyond the galaxy and everything becomes in a dark night outer space 🌌

  23. Anyone else notice that the was no mention of the fact that Kennedy space center is also a wildlife preserve and noone seems to be bothered by them launching rockets there?

  24. Blocking this “news source” as sensationalist clickbait for socialist woke crowd.

  25. All the comments here are from poorly educated INCEL basement and trailer dwelling fanboys that are so dumb they eat up everything a dopey know nothing nerd with money like Muskrat and their mommies feed them. Losers.

  26. So many crybaby dbag conservatives here, pushing their stupid word salad.
    Screw them all and put them UNDER the starship booster next test.

  27. Future Martians calling all kinds of names over here, some calling this click bait, some calling it political, some calling it anti-musk, some calling it misinformation. I have one word you, “choice”. No one asking you to read this or approve this or support this. But still some get baited, politically maneuvered, misinformed or provoked all by their own choice, great new world 😂

  28. What a dumb article. Those birds are nowhere near the launch. Why don’t you talk about all the birds killed by wind turbines or cats? What SpaceX is doing is far more important than wind turbines. Why don’t you talk about all the whales being killed by “green energy” on the east coast? What SpaceX is doing is far more important. Go SpaceX!

  29. I smell a funded article here, I bet you this is done on behalf of Amazon. The guy who wrote this has no idea and no doubt did nit even watch the static fire.

  30. You never saw a launch out KSC? They almost always send a flock of birds flying. It hasn’t seemed to bother the birds after 70 years of launching rockets. Why should Boca Chica be any different?

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  32. It’s pretty easy to deduce that the author of this ridiculous piece is an anti-Elon Musk clown who not only doesn’t understand how zoom lenses work, but also doesn’t understand the concept of unbiased news reporting. (“given Elon Musk’s attitude of not asking for permission”) Looking at this author’s name, I cannot help but wonder if he or she is a former Twitter employee who got fired from the social media company when Musk took over.

  33. Not like this is rocket science or anything hahaha but nobody thought of checking for the birds? And since we’re so worried about carbon emissions what the hell was that

  34. Seriously your career is going no we’re writing utter trash like this I only clicked because of lunch updates! Stick to the truth and investigate your work then maybe you will get some were. The fact every one is saying pretty much the same thing about your work should be a huge wake up call. They won’t be with it and I hate to say it you give fuel to trump and fake news. People shouldn’t have to learn and get a grip of the media and work out what is real or not it should just be the truth. just stop!

  35. If you are worried about birds why not protest about things that kill a lot of birds. Windmills those gigantic noisy monstrosities kill millions of birds each year. They require tearing up the environment to build roads and destroy the view with their lighted towers and break the silence with the whoosh whoosh of whirling blades. Not to mention the disposal of the blades when they wear out or the fire hazzard from damaged systems. Build some safe low environmental impact nuclear plants instead.

  36. Birds are a casualty in virtually any endeavor. I’ve hit them with my vehicle and planes are designed to chew them up if they get in the way. Hopefully they fly away quick enough but it is crazy to hold up progress for the woke targeted finch.
    Suppose we miss establishing human survival on Mars by three months, as we blow ourselves up all because we were delayed by some endangered cricket.
    Studies show that we miss the extinction of hundreds of species, and such action is part of the natural process of selection. Nature is working on a bird that can fly faster than rocket exhaust. We should not interfere with nature’s efforts in that regard.

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