Earlier this summer, preparations for the first orbital test flight of the Starship SN20 prototype signaled that the rocket was getting closer to leaving our skies. The spacecraft was mated with the booster at Starbase, the company's facility located near the South Texas village of Boca Chica. The fully-stacked vehicle, which stands 395 ft tall (120 m), is now awaiting FAA assessment of the launch site.
SpaceX plans to conduct the first-ever orbital test flight of a Starship system from Starbase as soon as possible. However, that won't be possible until the FAA assessment is completed. This fall, the FAA began an environmental assessment of SpaceX's orbital launch activities, meant to determine whether the Super Heavy booster can be launched from Texas without affecting the surrounding environment due to its massive force.
On September 17, the agency released a draft review, inviting the public to comment about it until November 1. Initially, the agency planned to release the final review on December 31, allowing SpaceX to proceed with its launch at the beginning of 2022. However, the FAA announced that it would take at least two more months to complete the assessment.
"However, due to the high volume of comments submitted on the Draft PEA, discussions and consultation efforts with consulting parties, the FAA is announcing an update to the schedule. The FAA now plans to release the Final PEA on February 28, 2022.", says the agency in a statement.
The FAA continues its Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) for the proposed @SpaceX Starship/Super Heavy project in Boca Chica, Texas. The new target date for issuing the Final PEA is February 28. Learn more at https://t.co/CZy1jVb5qM. #FAASpace pic.twitter.com/NjNyUsgF4I— The FAA ?? (@FAANews) December 28, 2021