Previously, Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz sent a letter to SpaceX alleging that it had illegally closed public roads and beaches within the Texan county. The district attorney said that SpaceX was operating outside of its permit to close roads and beaches for up to 300 hours a year for safety reasons related to its operations. These operations include test flights for the Starship rocket prototypes, which have previously gotten explosive enough to attract unwanted attention from the FAA.
Now SpaceX has published its official response to the allegations, saying that the initial reports of illegal closures were based on “misunderstandings” and “misinformation” regarding the evidence used in the report and subsequent investigation. It says that the company hasn’t exceeded the number of hours that it is permitted to close off beaches and roads every year, as was alleged in the complaint. In a letter signed by SpaceX Senior Director Shyamal Patel, one such misunderstanding involved investigators encountering a security guard who is alleged to have blocked off a road leading to SpaceX’s privately owned property.
Patel says that the security guard was a new hire who was certified for his position and may have simply been making sure that no unauthorized personnel entered SpaceX’s test facility near Boca Chica. The letter stated that SpaceX will work on enhancing training protocols for its security guards and emphasize to its employees that they shouldn’t close off public roads without authorization from the company.
The most likely explanation is that SpaceX has tightened its security since a YouTuber named Caesar Galaviz trespassed in the test facility and was able to walk around the test yard and get up-close footage of SpaceX hardware, including the SN11 prototype, which had not yet flown at the time. Authorities issued a warrant for Galaviz’s arrest in May after identifying the man behind the “Loco VlogS” YouTube channel.
Since then, robotic “dogs” were seen patrolling the facility. SpaceX normally uses them for hazardous tasks such as inspecting the debris from the prototypes that exploded during or shortly after landing.
SpaceX suggested that the street that is apparently in question in the alleged road closure, Remedios Street, go through the county’s formal abandonment process so that the company can maintain it for its own purposes. According to SpaceX, Joanna Street had been renamed Rocket Road as part of a similar process, including a new street sign installed by the County Engineering Department.
According to SpaceX’s own internal paperwork, it has closed public roads and beaches for 226 hours and 9 minutes so far this year, well under the 300 hours allotted by the FAA. The original complainant, an organization known as Save RGV, claimed that the closures totaled more than 385 hours, which SpaceX says is “not accurate.”
Saenz says that his office has received the letter responding to the allegations and is still reviewing the matter. In an official statement to local media, he said, “While I wish SpaceX nothing but the best in their endeavors, I will continue to be responsive to concerns raised by the public and to ensure the safety of the community.”