Musk Looks at Florida to Test Starship Rocket

Elon Musk said SpaceX reportedly plans to transform parts of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to become an operational base for the company’s super-powerful Starship launcher.

SpaceX, whose formal name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp., has conducted some low-altitude tests of its Starship vehicle from its south Texas property, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But a demonstration program that would include an orbital test mission needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been conducting an environmental assessment of the company’s proposal to operate Starship in Texas.

On Thursday, Musk said if the FAA required what is called an environmental-impact statement, in addition to its current review, SpaceX “would have to shift our priorities” to Kennedy Space Center, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration complex east of Orlando, the Journal reported.

“It would obviously set us back for quite some time,” he said of the potential for another FAA review at SpaceX’s facility in Texas, called Starbase, 25 miles east of Brownsville.

SpaceX already has permission to use a launch site at the Kennedy Space Center for Starship and its booster rocket, the Journal reported, citing a 2019 NASA document that confirmed the vehicles could be used there.

In December, Musk tweeted that SpaceX had started building an orbital launchpad for Starship at the Florida location.

Over time, the company could end up using the properties in Florida and Texas for different purposes, Musk said Thursday, the Journal reported.

The Texas facility is “well-suited to be kind of like our advanced R&D location,” he said, referring to research and development. “So it’s like where we would try out new designs and new versions of the rocket.”

“Probably [Kennedy] would be sort of our main operational launch site,” he added.

Last year, the FAA held hearings about the Starship proposal for the Texas location and plans to release its environmental review of the project Feb. 28, the Journal reported.

Don Dankert, technical lead for environmental planning at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, said recently that SpaceX had submitted a proposal for additional operations for the Starship rocket system within the Florida property.

That proposal isn’t public yet but “potentially involves the construction of a new launch complex and then expanding their operational facilities” at Kennedy,  Dankert told the Journal.

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