Environment — SpaceX took a risk last month when it launched its massive Starship rocket, which took off but did not reach space.
While this was an important achievement for the company, it was not shared by everyone.
Environmental groups, for example, have taken action by filing a federal lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration.
The agency, according to the groups, neglected to thoroughly investigate the potential harm or disasters to the surrounding ecology caused by the launch.
The rocket was touted as the most powerful ever built.
It launched out from a launch pad at a private SpaceX spaceport in South Texas on April 20.
It exploded four minutes into the flight over the Gulf of Mexico.
The case was filed in federal court in Washington, DC on Monday.
The FAA, it said, permitted the launch in violation of federal environmental law.
Despite the program’s severe environmental and community impact, which includes the loss of several critical migratory bird habitats, the premiere was also permitted.
According to the complaint, the area around the launch has vital habitat for federally protected animals such as the endangered ocelot.
Jared Margolis, senior counsel of the Center for Biological Diversity, published a statement saying:
“It’s vital that we protect life on Earth even as we look to the stars in this modern era of spaceflight.”
The FAA found that the April 20 launch would have no major environmental effect.
As a result, the government avoided doing a comprehensive environmental evaluation, which would have taken longer.
The SpaceX catastrophe, according to Margolis, enhances the group’s legal contention that the FAA made a mistake in its judgment.
“They just proved our point here,” said the attorney. “What ended up occurring was exactly what we expected.”
“There’s all kinds of environmental harm that’s clearly an issue and needs to be fully considered, and they didn’t consider it.”
Environmental groups challenging the FAA are hoping that the government would rethink and perform a more complete environmental assessment of the launch’s impact.
A more comprehensive FAA inquiry, according to Margolis, may have shown that SpaceX needed extra water to cool their launch pad, which exploded.
Even if the rockets do not detonate, the attorney claims that they imperil migratory bird species that utilize the region.
“It’s an incredibly important area for birds,” he said.
“There’s an incredible amount of heat and light from the launches even when they don’t go wrong.”
According to Margolis, the impact of the scattered debris is not yet over.
Environmentalists are worried that the heavy machinery required to remove the remaining metal and concrete would harm animals.
“You have so much [debris] in the area that recovering it could cause even more damage,” said Margolis.
Commercial rocket launch permits are handled by the FAA.
After more than a year of back-and-forth, it granted SpaceX permission to launch.
The FAA is also in charge of examining the failed flight test of the Starship last month.
While this is not uncommon, it occurred following a smaller-scale Starship test launch in South Texas.
In an emailed statement, the FAA claimed that the inquiry will determine the underlying cause of the explosion and recommend corrective actions SpaceX should take to avoid a similar catastrophe in the future.
Concurrently, the FAA is developing a “anomaly response plan” in response to the FAA’s Programmatic Environmental Assessment of Starship, which is expected to be completed in 2022.
“SpaceX is responsible for its implementation and for local, state, and federal compliance requirements,” said FAA spokesperson Steve Kulm.
Kulm was asked whether the FAA could confirm if debris had arrived in strange places.
Cameron County, he claimed, issued a statement in response to all of the dust concerns directed at SpaceX.
Elon Musk went live on Twitter Spaces on Saturday evening, indicating that he expects SpaceX will be ready to launch another Starship.
Another test flight is scheduled over the following six to eight weeks in terms of technology.
Musk sounded belligerent when asked about the likelihood of legal action from environmental organizations.
“Look at an aerial picture of the area and – apart from the area around the launch stand – tell me where things are damaged,” he said.
“I think you can’t even see it at this point.”
“To the best of our knowledge, there has not been any meaningful damage to the environment.”