SpaceX's Texas expansion plans derailed by environmental paperwork

It reportedly didn't submit the environmental information requested by the Army Corps of Engineers.

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SpaceX's first orbital Starship SN20 is stacked atop its massive Super Heavy Booster 4 at the company's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on February 10, 2022. - Elon Musk's SpaceX has reassembled the world's tallest rocket ahead of a highly anticipated update on the company's Starship program in South Texas. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
JIM WATSON via Getty Images

SpaceX can't start expanding its launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas anytime soon. According to documents obtained by Bloomberg and CNBC, the Army Corps of Engineers has closed its review of the company's application to build a new launch pad, landing pad and other related infrastructure in Boca Chica. SpaceX reportedly failed to provide the Army Corps with the environmental information it requested, and the permit process can't continue without it. 

The company was planning to build new infrastructure on 17 acres of land that includes wetlands and mud flats. As CNBC notes, the Army Corps has stewardship over wetland areas that serve as habitat for fish and wildlife in the country. It oversees any development over wetlands to ensure it doesn't cause significant impact on the endangered species living in them, as well as on drinking water for people in the area. It's also in charge of examining whether it's feasible for companies applying for a permit to move construction elsewhere.

In the letter it sent to the company, the Army Corps listed the information it's seeking from SpaceX, including how its expansion would impact the wetlands exactly. It's also asking for data on threatened or endangered species that may be significantly impacted by the construction, as well as the company's current knowledge on the presence or absence of historic properties on the land. While the Army Corps suspended the company's application, SpaceX can reinitiate the permit process if it can provide all the information being requested. 

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The Federal Aviation Administration is also conducting a separate review of the facility to determine whether launching the Starship out of Boca Chica will cause safety issues or have significant environmental impact on the area. SpaceX was supposed to hear from the FAA last year, but the agency has delayed its decision quite a few times since then: Its latest target date of completion is April 29th. Without permission from the FAA, it won't be able to launch its massive spaceship from Boca Chica for its first orbital test flight that's expected to take place in the next few months. Elon Musk previously said that if SpaceX fails to secure the permits company needs in Texas, it will move Starship launches to Cape Canaveral in Florida. 

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