SpaceX won’t be able to test its next-generation Starship rocket for some time yet, as the company still has to wait a while for approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The publication of the FAA’s latest environmental assessment of the launch has been delayed until May 31, the agency wrote in an update.
The environmental assessment, called Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA), already went through a draft phase last year. But now the FAA says it will wait to release its final report until the end of next month. This follows an earlier announcement by the FAA that it planned to release the review in late April, but that’s not going to happen now.
SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft atop the Super Heavy booster at the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX
The launch in question is the Starship’s first orbital test flight, when the Super Heavy booster and the Starship spacecraft are launched into the sky, after which both sections will splash into the ocean about 90 minutes later.
The concept of a PEA is to assess whether a planned launch could pose a threat to public safety, such as by flying over a populated area, whether it raises national security issues, insurance coverage issues, and any environmental impacts of the launch. Commenting on the delay, the FAA said it was finalizing the assessment and was responding to public comments in response to the draft report.
“The FAA is finalizing its assessment of the Final PEA, including responding to comments and ensuring consistency with SpaceX’s license application,” the agency wrote. “The FAA is also completing consultations and confirming mitigations for the proposed SpaceX operations. All consultations must be completed before the FAA can issue the final PEA.”
While space enthusiasts and SpaceX fans alike will be unhappy about this latest delay, it’s not clear whether the Starship prototype will actually be ready for its first orbital test flight. As space.com reports, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said last month that the company had yet to finish and integrate its engines into the spacecraft, so he estimated May at the earliest for the spacecraft’s first orbital test flight.