As the controversy over an environmental evaluation of SpaceX’s proposed launch facility in Texas continues, the company conducted a static-fire assessment of a Starship vehicle on October 21. At the Boca Chica, Texas, testing facility, SpaceX executed two brief firings of the single Raptor engine fitted aboard a Starship vehicle designated Ship 20. The experiments were the first to use the engine’s vacuum variant, which has a significantly wider nozzle to handle the increased plume when operating at low atmospheric pressure.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a series of tweets that the Raptor engine’s high chamber pressure allows the firm to assess the vacuum variant of the engine at sea level without experiencing the considerable separation of exhaust from the nozzle.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is conducting an environmental study of orbital launch activities at Boca Chica, which is a condition for securing a Starship/Super Heavy vehicle launch permit. The agency submitted a draft PEA (programmatic environmental assessment) of those launch activities for public feedback on September 17th.

Two virtual public hearings were held through Zoom on October 18 and 20 as part of the public comment process. Officials from the FAA gave a summary of the PEA and afterward took public comments orally. Comments can also be sent in by mail or email until November 1st.

The public hearings revealed a wide range of opinions on SpaceX’s plans to launch satellites from Boca Chica. Many of the guests were enthusiastic supporters of the corporation and the proposed launch location, describing it as crucial to the nation’s space future. They also downplayed the impact on the environment, contrasting it to the launch facilities at Cape Canaveral, situated in Florida, a wildlife sanctuary surrounds that.

“I stand with SpaceX company and desire them to have complete authorization to do as many deployments as they need to ensure this system truly works,” Aiden Girlya, a hearing participant, said at the October 20 hearing echoing many of the pro-SpaceX viewpoints expressed at the sessions. “I don’t think they should be restricted to a specific amount.” We haven’t noticed any environmental consequences yet, so they should be capable of doing as many deployments as they need.”

Others underlined the economic benefits of SpaceX’s presence in the area, claiming that they surpassed any environmental concerns. At the October 18 meeting, Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa, a Brownsville city commissioner, stated SpaceX had transformed the city from one of poorest in the country to “one of the highly sought-after ZIP codes” to live and work in. “I’m not just pleading with you; I’m begging you to grant them the permit.”

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