If an ongoing environmental study takes longer than expected, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said on February 10 that the firm is willing to move testing of Starship’s next-generation launch vehicle from the state of Texas to Florida.

Musk claimed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would conclude an environmental evaluation and issue SpaceX a launch permit for Starship releases as soon as March, in a long-awaited and long-delayed update on Starship development at the company’s Boca Chica, Texas, test site.

“We don’t have a lot of information about where the FAA stands,” he said. “We’ve gotten a rough indication that a permission could come in March, but that’s all we know.”

Last fall, the FAA said it anticipated to finish an environmental review of Starship orbital launches from Boca Chica by the close of 2021. The deadline was pushed up to February 28 in late December, citing a significant number of public submissions and ongoing consultations with other federal agencies.

However, one possible outcome of that study is the completion of a more thorough environmental impact statement (EIS), which was requested by certain individuals and organizations during the public consultation on the draft environmental assessment (EA) last fall. An EIS would take months, if not over a year, to complete, delaying any launch operations from Boca Chica in the meanwhile.

“We would have to transfer our priority to Cape Kennedy,” he added, referring to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. “It would certainly set us behind for quite some time since an EIS takes more time than an EA, so we are going to have to change our priorities to Cape Kennedy.”

SpaceX already received environmental approvals from KSC for Starship missions, and the company has resumed work on a launch facility for Starship at the Launch Complex 39A, which is close to the existing Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch pad.

“Our worst-case situation is that we’d have to wait 6 – 8 months to start building up the Cape launch tower as well as launch from there,” he said.

It’s unclear whether the prior environmental evaluation for Starship at KSC was going to need to be amended to account for the vehicle’s present configuration, which has changed dramatically since the review was completed. Any Starship deployments from Launch Complex 39A were going to have to operate around Falcon launches and would necessitate NASA coordination.

However, Musk stated that SpaceX intends to use KSC as the main launch complex for Starship in the long run and that the company is establishing a facility there to produce the vehicles. SpaceX is now transforming 2 oil rigs into such platforms which can be moved as needed. Musk commended Brownsville and South Texas locals for their support of the Starbase SpaceX facility situated in Boca Chica but hinted that it would not be a fully operating spaceport.

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