FAA clears SpaceX to launch rockets from South Texas facility


A SpaceX prototype is seen on Nov. 30, 2020, ready to launch from the company’s private facility near Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The FAA in late January temporarily suspended all launches but on Tuesday, Feb. 2, approved the company to test launch over the skies of South Texas. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Federal Aviation Administration has cleared SpaceX to safely launch its SN9 prototype at the company’s South Texas launch facility near the border with Mexico after grounding the private space company last week.

SpaceX could test-launch its SN9 rocket as early as noon CST Tuesday from its private facility near Boca Chica Beach, Texas.

“The FAA determined late Monday (Feb.1 ) that SpaceX complies with all safety and related federal regulations and is authorized to conduct Starship SN9 flight operations in accordance with its launch license,” FAA spokeswoman Steve Kulm wrote in an email to Border Report on Tuesday.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk griped on social media last Friday that his company had been unfairly prevented from test-launching its rocket high above the skies of South Texas. But environmentalists Border Report spoke with cheered the decision, saying an environmental assessment of potential harm to local wildlife and the border communities is still ongoing by the federal oversight agency, and they questioned how and why SpaceX gets to continue its launches and static-fire engine tests during this review.

The FAA said the grounding occurred after SpaceX launched its SN8 in December, which the FAA had denied. The agency said SpaceX went ahead with the launch after it sought a waiver to exceed maximum public risk allowed by federal safety regulations.

That triggered an all-stop to all test flights at the facility and led to last week’s grounding. But a subsequent investigation by the FAA has approved the company’s corrective actions and granted it the go-ahead for a launch likely to happen this afternoon.

An updated launch license issued by the FAA shows the company is clear to test launch its Starship and prototypes — which are massive spaceships that the company one day hopes to send to Mars — from this South Texas remote facility.

If the launch occurs, it would be the company’s second high-altitude flight over the skies of South Texas. A previous high-altitude flight ended with the spacecraft exploding upon impact.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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