© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

SpaceX, FAA challenged over RGV environmental damage

Ways To Subscribe
SpaceX Starship blasts off from Boca Chica
SpaceX video screen grab
SpaceX Starship blasts off from Boca Chica

Propelled by the Super Heavy rocket, SpaceX’s Starship shot 39 kilometers into the sky before losing control and then exploding over the Gulf of Mexico. The detonation of the largest and most powerful space vehicle ever flown scattered wreckage across the area and ignited fires.

The resulting damage motivated environmental groups to sue the FAA for not fully considering the environmental impacts of the Starship program near Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. The plaintiffs are asking the court to throw out the FAA's five-year license granted to SpaceX.

Currently the FAA is investigating the SpaceX accident and has grounded all SpaceX Starships launches until it can find that there is no threat to public safety in future launches.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said he considers the April blast off a successful experiment, and he expects to launch another Super Heavy and Starship in a matter of months, after the launch site is reconstructed, with a new method to redirect the blast damage from the 30 Raptor engines.

If Musk is able to perfect the launch system, future Starship flights could bring about a new era of space exploration, including sending humans to the Moon and Mars.

But at what cost? Environmental groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity, American Bird Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation, Save RGV (Rio Grande Valley), and the Carrizo/Comecrudo Nation of Texas don’t want the sensitive ecology of Boca Chica Beach and the surrounding area sacrificed in the process.

They argue that federal officials should defend vulnerable wildlife and local communities, rather than give carte blanche to Musk and his private corporate interests.

They don’t want a treasured coastal landscape populated by protected species turned into a trashed wasteland littered with the space waste of the world’s richest man.


Jim Chapman is a respected environmentalist and board member on Save RGV, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting environmental justice in the Rio Grande Valley.

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet@TPRSource.

*This interview will be recorded on Wednesday May 3.

Stay Connected
David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi