SpaceX Performs Engine Test for Starship as FAA Wraps Up Environmental Review

Amid controversy about SpaceX’s impact on the ecology in the Boca Chica, Texas, area, the FAA has wrapped up two hearings on its planned orbital test for Starship and future Starship-related operations. SpaceX also conducted a test firing of the engines that will be used for Starship.

Several local residents weighed in during the FAA’s hearings, which were held over Zoom. South Texas resident Joyce Hamilton mentioned the decline in nesting plovers and frequent beach closures due to SpaceX’s activities.

“I feel all of these are big concerns, and I’d like to just end by urging the FAA to conduct a serious comprehensive environmental impact study,” she said.

Others opposed the expansion of the test facility due to the risk of gentrification in the vicinity. Some people are already leaving Boca Chica, possibly out of concern about the disruptions caused by SpaceX’s operations and rising property values, which can drive up property taxes.

SpaceX had previously attracted scrutiny from county officials due to alleged excessive beach and road closures. SpaceX had responded by saying that some security guards were improperly trained and offering to take over a road that runs past the launch facility.

However, most people were eager to focus on the benefits of SpaceX’s presence and the possible future painted by Elon Musk, which could include future colonies on Mars. The general sentiment was that, besides bringing skilled jobs to the area and Musk’s donations for education and community improvement projects in the area, making humans a multi-planet species was critical for the future.

“There might be causes that might concern people, but we have to sometimes put those aside for the greater good,” said Nicholas Andrich, a California resident who describes himself as a frequent visitor to Boca Chica.

“I will always be on their side. I think that their endeavors are absolutely necessary and vital to humanity as a species,” said Brandon McHugh.

Also, you don’t necessarily have to be an engineer to work for SpaceX. It recently opened a position for a mixologist for an on-site bar at the test facility.

The FAA will continue to accept comments through November 1.

On October 21, SpaceX tested the engines on SN20, the test model for Starship that will make the orbital test flight. The static fire test seemed to involve only one of the two Raptor engines installed on the model. The Raptor was a version that is optimized to operate in the relative vacuum of space. This is the first time SpaceX tested a vacuum-rated Raptor engine on a Starship test model.

SN20 will eventually have three standard and three vacuum-rated Raptor engines. The test model will launch on a Super Heavy rocket at the Boca Chica facility and splash down off the Hawaiian coast. SpaceX plans to use Starship and Starship-derived spacecraft for travel to destinations like the Moon and Mars.

SpaceX had hoped to perform an orbital test of Starship over the summer but got slowed down by the regulatory process. Elon Musk had often expressed annoyance with regulators on Twitter. However, he expressed the hope that regulatory approval would arrive in time to conduct the orbital test in November.